Only New Chometz Apply

Since parshas Bo includes the prohibitions about chometz on Pesach

Question #1: First Fruits

Which korbanos are offered only from “first fruits”?

Question #2: New Grains

Which korbanos are offered only from the new grain?

Question #3: Wheat from Heaven!

May korbanos be offered from heavenly-dropped wheat?

Foreword

Virtually all grain korbanos, called menachos (singular: mincha), are wheat, mankind’s most common basic sustenance. However, on the second day of Pesach, the korban omer is offered in the Beis Hamikdash from the new crop of barley. Indeed, it is the only barley-flour korban offered by the tzibur, the community. In general, barley is viewed as animal feed, rather than “people food” (see Pesachim 3b). (The only other korban from barley was the minchas sotah, a privately offered korban for which there is an obvious reason why it is from a feed grain, as Rashi [Bamidbar 5:15] and the midrashim [Midrash Agadah and Yalkut Shimoni ad loc.] elaborate.) Presumably, the reason that the korban omer was from barley is because barley ripens earlier than wheat and the korban omer permits the consumption of the new grain crop; the Torah did not delay until the wheat is ready for harvest.

In honor of Shavuos

Seven weeks later, on Shavuos, special korbanos, called the shetei halechem, are offered from the new wheat crop. Although this korban is kosher if made from the previous year’s wheat crop, there is a mitzvah min haTorah to bring it from the new crop. The offering of the shetei halechem permits the new crop to be used for menachos.

Introduction

Immediately after describing the korban omer, the Torah teaches: “And you shall each count seven complete weeks, from the morrow after that day of rest [the first day of Pesach], beginning on the day of your bringing the omer, which is waved. You shall count fifty days, until the morrow after the seventh week, at which time you shall offer a new grain offering to Hashem. From your dwelling places (Hebrew: ‘mimoshevoseichem’) you shall bring two loaves of bread. They (the two loaves together) shall comprise two tenths of an omer of fine flour. They shall be baked leavened (Hebrew: ‘chometz’) and be the first fruits unto Hashem (Hebrew: ‘bikkurim’). Together with the bread, you shall bring a group of seven yearling sheep and, also, one young bull and two rams. These (ten animals) will be olah offerings for Hashem, offered together with their appropriate grain offerings and libations. This is a fire offering, to show Hashem the fragrance of compliance” (Vayikra 23, 15-18; the translation of the word ניחוח follows that of Rav Hirsch). The Torah then completes the description, including that three more korbanos accompanied the shetei halechem, a male goat as a chatas and two yearling sheep as publically-owned korbanos shelamim, for a total of thirteen animal korbanos.

The Torah passage that I just quoted includes several interesting observations:

Receiving the Torah?

(1) Although calculation demonstrates that the holiday of Shavuos coincides with the giving of the Torah, neither here nor any other place does the Torah make any association between the two. This article will not discuss this famous question, to which there are many answers.

Imported grain

(2) We are told that the shetei halechem must be brought “from your dwelling places.” But grain is never grown in dwellings, but open fields!

The Gemara (Menachos 83b) explains that “dwelling place” here means Eretz Yisrael, and that, whereas other mincha offerings may use grain imported from outside Eretz Yisrael, shetei halechem may use only grain that grew in Eretz Yisrael (Mishnah Menachos 83b; Keilim 1:6; Parah 2:1).

Alef emphasis

(3) The word immediately after mimoshevoseichem in the Torah is תביאו, “you shall bring,” but the letter alef in that word contains a dagesh. However, an alef never otherwise has a dagesh. Why this anomaly? Rav Hirsch suggests that this is to emphasize the uniqueness of the shetei halechem as the only mincha in which the animal offerings are brought only as an accompaniment to the grain offering.

Chometz

(4) The Torah reports that the shetei halechem “shall be baked leavened.” This is very unusual. All grain offerings in the Beis Hamikdash must be unleavened – they all halachically qualify as matzah. Even the “leftovers” from all mincha offerings may not be allowed to become chometz (Vayikra 6:9-10)! A kohein who violates this last instruction intentionally could receive malkus, lashes, and would no longer be accepted as a witness!

There are only two exceptions – two instances of a grain offering in the Beis Hamikdash which is made from chometz: one of the four types of “bread” that accompanied the korban todah was chometz (Vayikra 7:13) and the shetei halechem of Shavuos (Mishnah, Menachos 52b). In both of these instances, the Torah states that they must be chometz.

The shetei halechem are the only public korbanos that are chometz, since the korban todah is an individual’s thanksgiving offering for surviving travail (Tehillim 100, 107 and Berachos 54b). Since the Torah states that no mincha “offered to Hashem” may be chometz (Vayikra 2:11), the chometz parts of these menachos are never placed on the mizbeiach, but are eaten in Yerushalayim while completely tahor, either by the kohanim and their families or by the owners of the korban.

Who is first?

(5) Furthermore, the Torah states that the shetei halechem must be bikkurim. Yet bikkurim usually means the fruits that a farmer grows in his field and brings to the Beis Hamikdash as his own thanks offering (see Devarim 26:1-11 and Mishnah, Mesechta Bikkurim). The Gemara explains that the word bikkurim, here, means that this year’s grain crops cannot be used for menachos before the shetei halechem has been offered. In addition, the Mishnah teaches that, what we usually call the bikkurim, the special, first-ripening fruits for which Eretz Yisrael is renowned, are not brought to the Beis Hamikdash until the shetei halechem korban is offered (Menachos 68b; see also Bikkurim 1:10).

Meat with bread

(6) The Torah states: “Together with the bread, you shall bring a group of seven yearling sheep and, also, one young bull and two rams.” These are not the korbanos musaf offered on Shavuos, which are mentioned in parshas Pinchas and are offered on Shavuos, even if no shetei halechem mincha is brought.

Virtually all grain offerings in the Beis Hamikdash are brought either without any animal korbanos, or to accompany the animal offerings. It is unusual that the main korban is one made from flour, and the animal offerings accompany the grain offerings; but that is the law regarding the shetei halechem. This is truly unique in the instance of the shetei halechem, since it is the only mincha that causes thirteen animal korbanos to be brought as a result. If the shetei halechem is not offered, these korbanos cannot be brought, but if these korbanos are not brought, the shetei halechem is kosher by itself.

The only other mincha that is the cause of the bringing of a korban is the korban omer, but in that case, only one korban is offered, a sheep. Shetei halechem are completely unique in that it is the only instance in which a grain offering causes the offering of a large group of korbanos.

Details, details:

In addition to these observations that lie directly in the pesukim themselves, there are a host of other unusual features that apply to the shetei halechem, such as:

1. The Mishnah (Menachos 59a) notes that the mincha of the shetei halechem is not accompanied by either oil or frankincense, unlike most mincha offerings. Why not?

To answer this question, I refer you to read, in detail, the commentary of Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 23:17).

2. The shetei halechem must be brought from grain that had not yet taken root prior to this year’s crop season (Mishnah, Menachos 83b; Parah 2:1; we should note the Rambam does not rule according to this Mishnah, a position that engenders much discussion). The shetei halechem permitted use of new grain in the Beis Hamikdash (Mishnah Menachos 68b). Menachos offered from the new grain before the korban omer was offered were invalid, whereas those offered before the shetei halechem were brought were kosher, although a Torah violation was involved in bringing them (Menachos 68b). I will return to this halacha shortly.

3. Although you may bake bread, challah, cake or cookies on Yom Tov to serve on that day, and the korbanos to be brought on that day (such as korbanos musaf and korban pesach) are shechted, butchered and burnt on the mizbeiach on Shabbos and certainly on Yom Tov, the shetei halechem could not be baked on Shavuos (Menachos 95b and 100b). The reason they could not be baked on Yom Tov is because baking and cooking on Yom Tov are permitted only to benefit Jews who will be celebrating Yom Tov, but it is prohibited to bake a korban on Yom Tov. Although korbanos are brought on Yom Tov, this applies only to the processing of the korban necessary to be performed that day. The baking of the menachos, similar to the baking of the twelve loaves of the lechem hapanim (the showbread) for Shabbos, could be performed before Shabbos or Yom Tov, and therefore the two loaves of the shetei halechem must be baked before Yom Tov.

Many halachic authorities raise the following question: Why can’t you bake your own private bread on Yom Tov for Yom Tov use, and, while doing do, bake the shetei halechem? There is much discussion among acharonim regarding this question, without any specifically accepted answer.

4. The shetei halechem and the two shelamim sheep offered with it were held up by the kohein and waved in six directions – upwards and downwards and in four directions of the globe, similar to the way the lulav and esrog are waved on Sukkos (Mishnah Menachos 61a).

5. The Mishnah teaches that ten miracles occurred in the Beis Hamikdash, one of which was that the korban omer and the shetei halechem were never invalidated by a pesul in which something unplanned went wrong (Pirkei Avos 5:5).

Heavenly wheat!

In this context, we have the following unusual passage of Gemara: “What is the halacha regarding wheat that fell from the clouds? Can it be used for the shetei halechem offering?”

Rashi and his grandson, Rabbeinu Tam, disagreed regarding what case is being described here. Rabbeinu Tam understands that the Gemara is discussing wheat that miraculously fell from heaven, similar to the way the mann in the desert arrived every morning. As traditionally explained, the berocha recited before eating the mann was “Hamamtir lechem min hashamayim,” “Blessed are You, Hashem… Who rains bread from the sky” (quoted by Shu’t Torah Lishmah #63, in the name of the Rama MiFano).

The Radbaz (Hilchos Temidim Umusafim, 8:3) is dissatisfied with Rabbeinu Tam’s approach, noting that Hashem brings miracles only when a major reason exists for them.

Stormy wheat

For these and other reasons, most late authorities prefer Rashi’s approach that the Gemara is discussing wheat that was blown by gale-force winds off a ship in the Mediterranean, or perhaps were on an island in the Mediterranean Sea, and then landed in Eretz Yisrael. We do not necessarily know the origin of the wheat; just that it landed in Eretz Yisrael.

Following either Rashi’s approach or that of his grandson, the Torah states that the shetei halechem must be offered from grain that grew mimoshevoseichem, from your dwelling places, and we learned above that this requires that shetei halechem must use wheat that grew in Eretz Yisrael. The question is whether this wheat, either the miraculous variety of Rabbeinu Tam’s version, or the windswept variety of Rashi’s, qualifies as wheat that grew mimoshevoseichem. (Our intrepid readers are referred to the commentary of the Mahari Kurkus on the Rambam, Hilchos Temidim Umusafim, 8:3, who analyses this issue.)

Brought too early

Regarding the shetei halechem offering, the Gemara presents the following intriguing anecdote. As I mentioned above, the Mishnah states that both the korban omer and the shetei halechem must be offered from the new crop (the korban omer from the new barley crop, and shetei halechem from the new wheat crop). The Mishnah also states that it was forbidden to eat from the new grain crop before the korban omer was offered, which is the prohibition of chodosh, and it is forbidden to offer a grain korban from the new crop until after the shetei halechem are offered. But, regarding a mincha from the new grain crop that is brought before the shetei halechem, the Mishnah makes the following distinction: If the new grain mincha was brought before the korban omer was offered on the second day of Pesach, the mincha is invalid, whereas if such a korban was brought after the korban omer was offered but before the shetei halechem, the mincha is kosher, notwithstanding that it is prohibited min haTorah to offer such a korban mincha.

Rabbi Tarfon, an older contemporary of Rabbi Akiva and one of the greatest Torah scholars of all time, queried why the offering of the korban omer, whose purpose was to permit the new grain to be eaten, should affect whether a mincha offered in the Beis Hamikdash is kosher or not?

A budding young scholar named Yehudah bar Nechemiah (besides this passage of Gemara, his name appears in several midrashim, mostly Midrash Rabbah and Midrash Tanchuma) answered Rabbi Tarfon with a brilliant insight: Prior to the bringing of the korban omer, the new grain qualifies as ma’achalos asuros, foods that a Jew is prohibited from eating – and there is a halacha that one cannot offer korbanos from products that a Jew may not consume. On the other hand, once the korban omer is offered, it is permitted to eat the new grain. It cannot be used for menachos because of a different law — the Torah refers to the shetei halechem as mincha chadasha, meaning that they should be the first korbanos offered from the new wheat crop. Should a different mincha be brought first from the new wheat crop, the shetei halechem are no longer mincha chadasha.

Yehudah bar Nechemiah argued that prior to the offering of the korban omer, the new grain has the status of ma’achalos asuros, which are never acceptable as korbanos, even after the fact (be’dei’evid). However, once the korban omer is offered, although it is still prohibited to use the new grain for menachos, we find many instances in which it is not proper to offer a korban a certain way, but be’dei’evid, after the fact, the korban is still kosher. Rabbi Tarfon was silent, implying that he accepted Yehudah bar Nechemiah’s response.

Rabbi Akiva, who, among other great luminaries of the era, was in attendance during this discussion, noted that Yehudah bar Nechemiah was smiling – demonstrating that he was personally satisfied to have bested a gadol beYisrael in a Torah discussion. Rabbi Akiva realized that Yehudah bar Nechemiah was afflicted with a very bad shortcoming – misplaced personal pride. Rabbi Akiva then forecast, within Yehudah bar Nechemiah’s earshot.

“Yehudah, I will be surprised if you’ll live a long time!” This was not intended as a curse, but a prediction.

The Gemara then quotes from the famous tanna, Rabbi Yehudah (the son of Rav Ila’ii), who was also present during this exchange. Rabbi Yehudah shared that the discussion between Rabbi Tarfon and Yehudah bar Nechemiah took place two weeks before Pesach, and that when he, Rabbi Yehudah (who lived in the southern part of Eretz Yisrael) returned for Shavuos to the beis hamedrash of the Sanhedrin, he did not find Yehudah bar Nechemiah. When Rabbi Yehudah inquired about Yehudah bar Nechemiah’s wellbeing, he was told that Yehudah bar Nechemiah had passed away suddenly in the interim.

This very tragic turn of events brings to mind both the deaths of Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 disciples (which occurred shortly after the sudden passing of Yehudah bar Nechemiah) and the much earlier tragedy of the sudden deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the two oldest sons of Aharon. In all of these instances, young, brilliant Torah scholars were suddenly taken because of personal character flaws. As implied by the midrash, had these young, great scholars become the leaders of the Jewish people, this would have caused irreparable damage to our mesorah. Klal Yisrael survives only when those who carry on the mesorah do so solely because of their obligation to Hashem, not because of personal interest.

Conclusion

Do we live with a burning desire to see the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt speedily in our days? Studying the halachos of the korbanos should help us develop our sensitivity and desire to see the Beis Hamikdash again in all its glory. May we soon merit seeing the kohanim offering all the korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash in purity and sanctity and Klal Yisrael in our rightful place in Eretz Yisrael, as a light unto the nations!

This Land Is My Land!

Yaakov plans to return to Eretz Yisrael…

Question #1: This Land is My Land!

How do we take possession of Eretz Yisrael?

Question #2: This Land is Your Land

How do you make Eretz Yisrael into “your” land?

Question #3: From California

How far west does Eretz Yisrael extend?

Introduction

In honor of a parsha in which Yaakov must leave Eretz Yisrael, with assurances that future generations will return, it behooves us to emphasize some of the special qualities for which Eretz Yisrael is so famous. Let us begin by mentioning some of the many pronouncements of Chazal regarding the uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael:

Eretz Yisrael was created first, before any other part of the world” (Ta’anis 10b). “Hashem Himself waters Eretz Yisrael directly” (Ta’anis 10b). The Gemara teaches that there was no mabul in Eretz Yisrael (Zevachim 113a). It also states that Eretz Yisrael lacks nothing (Berachos 36b; Yoma 81b; Sukkah 35a).

The centrality of Eretz Yisrael to all our prayers is expressed in the halacha, based on Shelomoh Hamelech’s tefillah when he dedicated the Beis Hamikdash (Melachim 1:8:48; Divrei Hayamim 2:6:38), that we face Eretz Yisrael when we pray (Berachos 30a).

Then there are the many halachic unique qualities to Eretz Yisrael. As we know, most agricultural mitzvos, including bikkurim, terumos, ma’asros, leket, shikcha, peah, peret, oleilus and shevi’is apply only in Eretz Yisrael, and most of the laws of kelayim, orlah, and revai’i apply min haTorah only in Eretz Yisrael.

The Gemara (Sotah 14a) asks: Why did Moshe desire so much to enter Eretz Yisrael? Was it because he wanted to enjoy its fruits? The Gemara answers that he wanted to fulfill the mitzvos that can be observed only in Eretz Yisrael!

There are mitzvos that are not agricultural that can be observed only in Eretz Yisrael. For example, the mitzvah of challah applies min haTorah only to dough kneaded in Eretz Yisrael.

A much more basic mitzvah is the requirement every month to establish and declare which day is rosh chodeshkiddush hachodesh — and to determine each year whether it should be a leap year containing thirteen months — ibur shanah — or a common year containing only twelve months, which requires the decision of a special beis din that meets in Eretz Yisrael (Berachos 63a). Thus, the creation of all our Yomim Tovim is dependent on the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael. (Hillel Hanasi introduced the use of our current calendar, which is based completely on calculation and not on observation. He realized that there would no longer be a beis din in Eretz Yisrael able to fulfill this mitzvah, and, therefore, it was required and necessary to implement a backup calendar with all the decisions predetermined and automatic.)

This land is my land!

An even greater emphasis on the primacy of Eretz Yisrael in keeping all the mitzvos can be noted in the following comments of the Sifrei, Rashi and the Ramban. To quote the Sifrei (Parshas Eikev #43), “Although I am exiling you, you will still be noticeably different because you perform mitzvos. This way, when you return to Eretz Yisrael, keeping mitzvos will not be a novel experience for you. We can compare this to a king who became angry at his wife and sent her back to her father’s house. Yet, at the same time, he instructed her, ‘Remember to wear your royal jewelry, so that upon your return, you will not find it foreign to dress like a queen.’ So, too, the Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Yisrael: ‘My sons, always be distinguished by doing mitzvos so that, when you return, they will not be unfamiliar to you.’” Even non-agricultural mitzvos, such as mezuzah and tefillin, apply in chutz la’aretz in order to keep us in the habit of observing mitzvos (Rashi, Devarim 11:18). From this Sifrei, we see that the primary place for observing all mitzvos, even the non-agricultural ones, is in Eretz Yisrael (Ramban, Vayikra 18:25; see also Ramban, Devarim 11:18).

One of the blessings of Eretz Yisrael is that its air makes one  wise (Bava Basra 158b). The Gemara states that ten units of wisdom arrived in the world and Eretz Yisrael took nine of them (Kiddushin 49b).

Eretz Yisrael is compared to a deer or an antelope. Aside from their natural grace and beauty, these gorgeous creations of Hashem possess a hide that stretches to cover all their innards. When the animal is skinned, its hide shrinks, such that it is hard to imagine how it possibly was sufficient to enclose the animal. Similarly, Eretz Yisrael, which is called eretz tzvi, “the beautiful land,” appears too small to provide residence and sustenance for all its inhabitants, yet it “stretches” to make available everything that all its residents need (Kesubos 112a; Gittin 57a).

How can we demonstrate our love for Eretz Yisrael? The Gemara reports that Rabbi Yosi bar Chanina kissed the gate of Akko, which was the halachic border of Eretz Yisrael in his day (Yerushalmi, Shevi’is 4:7).

This land is your land

How do you make Eretz Yisrael into “your” land?

The Gemara (Berachos 5a) teaches that “three wonderful gifts, olam haba, Eretz Yisrael and Torah, were granted to the Jewish people, but each can be acquired only through difficulties (yissurin).” As anyone who moves to Eretz Yisrael will attest, aliyah never happens without serious hitches. Growth in Torah learning requires much sacrifice, as does achieving the rewards awaiting us in olam haba. All these require major personal investment. But, to the extent that one endures difficulty, he internalizes “possession” of them. Thus, it is impossible to take possession of olam haba, Eretz Yisrael or Torah without encountering and surmounting obstacles on the way.

Taking these ideas further is a statement (Pesachim 113a) that someone who dwells in Eretz Yisrael inherits olam haba. Even more is conveyed by a different passage of Gemara (Kesubos 111a), that someone who walks just four amos in Eretz Yisrael is guaranteed olam haba!

The midrash teaches that five things are more cherished by Hashem than the worlds of heaven and earth that He created. One of these five things is Jews settling in Eretz Yisrael.

The Gemara also states that the shuls andthe batei midrash of chutz la’aretz will be transported to Eretz Yisrael (Megillah 29a).

From California

How far west does Eretz Yisrael extend?

Eretz Yisrael does not stretch as far west as California. Let us briefly discuss the westernmost parts of Eretz Yisrael, as described by various pesukim in Tanach. Every mention of the borders of Eretz Yisrael defines its western border simply as the “Yam Hagadol,” the “Great Sea.” (Although there are seas larger than the Mediterranean, it is called the “Great Sea” because of its relationship to Eretz Yisrael. In other words, it is considered “great” not because of its own qualities — it is “great” because anything associated with Eretz Yisrael is great!)

What about islands in the Mediterranean? Are they part of Eretz Yisrael?

This question is the subject of a dispute among tanna’im. According to Rabbi Yehudah, bodies of land due west of Eretz Yisrael are part of Eretz Yisrael. However, accepted halacha follows the opinion of the chachamim who draw an imaginary line from the northwestern corner of Eretz Yisrael to its southwestern border, Nachal Mitzrayim and include in Eretz Yisrael only islands in that easternmost part of the Mediterranean (Gittin 8a).

Where will I find the northwestern corner of Eretz Yisrael on my map of the Middle East?

From the redwood forest

North of the land that most people identify with Eretz Yisrael are the famous cedars of Lebanon. However, most opinions consider the Promised Land to include current day Lebanon, or at least significant areas of it, as part of Eretz Yisrael. In the various Biblical descriptions of the borders of the Holy Land, we can observe that one location in the north, Har Hahor, figures prominently. First, I must note that the mountain called Har Hahor where Aharon was buried is a different place from the northern boundary marker of Eretz Yisrael. The reason why two different mountains would both be called Har Hahor is because the term means simply “the mountain of the mountain,” what Rashi describes as “an apple situated on top of another apple” — a mountain with a higher vertical rising peak on top. Thus, Har Hahor is as much a description as a name, and refers both to Aharon’s burial place, a mountain outside the southern or southeastern boundary of Eretz Yisrael, and to any one of the many choices suggested for Israel’s northwestern border, where the northern border reaches the sea.

I am aware of at least six different mountains identified as the Har Hahor of the northwestern-most point of Eretz Yisrael. All are mountains located on the eastern Mediterranean coast, all are north of what is today’s modern State of Israel, and each has this feature of a mountain with a mountainous peak rising on top. In other words, all opinions agree that true Eretz Yisrael spreads north of the borders of the current state. Opinions as to how far north will indeed be ultimately “ours” range from Lebanon, all the way up to Turkey. In other words, the consensus is that there are coastal areas north of Rosh Hanikra that are properly part of Eretz Yisrael, yet it is uncertain how far north.

To the Gulf Stream waters

Thus far we have discussed the western and northern borders of Eretz Yisrael; now we will discuss the southern border. In Parshas Mas’ei (Bamidbar 34), the Torah defines the easternmost point of the southern border of Eretz Yisrael to be the Dead Sea (Bamidbar 34:3), and its westernmost point to be Nachal Mitzrayim, the Stream of Egypt. We should first note that Avraham Avinu was promised from “Nahar Mitzrayim, the River of Egypt, whereas in Parshas Mas’ei, we are promised from the Stream of Egypt. Are these the same body of water? Indeed, Targum Yerushalmi explains both terms as referring to the Nile. Others do not. If so, what was Avraham promised, and why did we not receive it?

The Malbim (commentary to Bamidbar 34:2) explains that the borders promised at the end of Parshas Eikev (Devarim 11:24) reflect a promise for the future, when the Jewish people will acquire much more territory than what was possessed in the days of Yehoshua.

According to this approach, no part of Egypt is yet part of Eretz Yisrael. Similarly, others contend that the Stream of Egypt is the Wadi El Arish in the northeastern part of the Sinai Desert, whereas the River of Egypt is the Nile. According to this approach, Avraham Avinu was promised that, one day, his descendants would have much more extensive holdings to the south and southwest than they have ever controlled in history, even after Ariel Sharon crossed the Suez Canal and captured the Egyptian Third Army to end the Yom Kippur War. (The Gulf of Suez and the Suez Canal both lie east of the Nile and the area in between is the breadbasket and cotton growing area of Egypt.) Avraham Avinu was promised the land of ten nations, including Keini, Kenizi and Kadmoni, which Rashi (Bereishis 15:19) equates with Edom, Moav and Amon, but these are not the borders of Benei Yisrael’s territory when we entered the land in the days of Yehoshua. Until the era of moshiach, Klal Yisrael received the land of only seven of those ten nations, the rest going to other family members of Avraham Avinu, including the descendants of Amon and Moav, Avraham’s grandnieces, and of Eisav.

This land was made for you and me!

The Ramban (Devarim 11:24) explains the verses at the end of Parshas Eikev differently, understanding that those borders describe the area that we are commanded to conquer. This is consistent with his opinion that one of the taryag mitzvos requires that we conquer Eretz Yisrael, a topic in which both Rashi and the Rambam appear to disagree with him, and which we will leave for a different time.

I roamed and rambled

On the other hand, some major commentaries interpret the Stream of Egypt of Parshas Mas’ei to be the Nile, not the Wadi el Arish, making the Eretz Yisrael promised to Yehoshua far more expansive in the south and southwest. Since much of Cairo is on the eastern bank of the Nile, this approach considers that part of Cairo to be located in Eretz Yisrael!

I’ve followed my footsteps

Thus far, we have noted that the western border of Eretz Yisrael is the Mediterranean Sea. The middle of Eretz Yisrael originally had a very narrow “waist,” bound on its east by the Jordan River. The lands to the east of the Jordan were chutz la’aretz.

The sparkling sands

How did Transjordan, the land to the eastern part of the Jordan River, become part of Eretz Yisrael?

The answer is that the Benei Yisrael did not have a mitzvah to conquer Transjordan. Klal Yisrael requested permission to travel through the lands of Sichon in order to enter the Holy Land from the east. Sichon came to attack the Benei Yisrael, and, in this battle, Sichon, Og and their entire armies were eliminated. As spoils of war, everything they owned, including their extensive holdings east of the Jordan River, became the property of Benei Yisrael and, henceforth, all the laws of Eretz Yisrael apply. But only because Sichon and Og attacked the Jewish people and not because of any divine promise.

That golden valley

This background introduces a new question: When Dovid Hamelech conquered what the Gemara calls “Suria,” a huge tract of land east and north of the Jordan, the Mishnah and Gemara rule that it did not have the status of Eretz Yisrael because of a principle the Gemara calls: kibush yachid lav shemei kibush, literally, “the conquest of an individual is not considered a conquest.” But why not? What is the difference between Moshe Rabbeinu’s capture of Transjordan from Sichon and Og, which is now part of Eretz Yisrael, and Dovid Hamelech’s capture of Suria, which remains outside Eretz Yisrael? Was Dovid Hamelech’s conquest inferior to that of Moshe Rabbeinu?

Responding to this question created much literature among the rishonim. Among the approaches we find:

1. Dovid Hamelech conquered Suria to be a personal possession and did not involve the entire nation of Yisrael in its conquest (Rashi, Gittin 8b s. v. kivush).

2. The Rambam seems to hold a very similar approach, that conquered land becoming part of Eretz Yisrael is dependent on the involvement of most of the Jewish people, or acting as agency for the Jewish people (Hilchos Terumos 1:2).

3. At the time that Dovid Hamelech conquered Suria, the Benei Yisrael had as yet not taken possession of all of the land that they were supposed to acquire. Once the lands that the Jews were commanded in Parshas Mas’ei have been conquered, any land additionally conquered will have the halacha of Eretz Yisrael, but not land conquered earlier (Tosafos, Gittin 8a s. v. kivush).

Her diamond deserts

Although we have just demonstrated that the lands of Transjordan became endowed with the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael, and that, therefore, virtually all the laws of Eretz Yisrael apply to them, they still are not fully considered the Holy Land. For example, the midrash criticizes the tribes of Gad and Reuvein for prioritizing wrongly when they asked to receive their inherited lands in Transjordan. To quote the midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah, Parshas Matos 22, 7), which compares them to Korach and Haman (!?), “Similarly, we find that the Benei Gad and the Benei Reuven, who were wealthy and owned large herds, cherished their wealth and therefore elected to dwell outside Eretz Yisrael. As a result, they were the first of all the tribes to be exiled, as we are taught (Divrei Hayamim I, Chapter 5).

The wheat fields waving

Of course, we all know that Eretz Yisrael is famous for its seven special fruits — wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates — and the unique mitzvah, bikkurim, which is performed only with these seven fruits. I know that someone is going to criticize my calling wheat and barley “fruits,” since you will not find them in the produce department of your local supermarket. However, wheat and barley kernels are indeed “fruits,” and this is why the Mishnah frequently refers to them as peiros. We all commemorate this mitzvah annually at the Pesach Seder, when we read the story beginning with the words “Arami oveid avi,” which is part of the recital made by the pilgrim bringing his bikkurim to the Beis Hamikdash.

A voice was sounding

We are meant to be “a light onto the nations,” which charges us with the responsibility to act in a manner that we create a kiddush Hashem. This means we are to live as a nation in Eretz Yisrael following the mitzvos of the Torah that Hashem commanded us individually and nationally, and that only Hashem could have commanded!

The Beis Hamikdash represents our relationship to Eretz Yisrael as being completely dependent on the Torah; this is why the bikkurim must be brought to the Beis Hamikdash and placed alongside the mizbei’ach. Our acquisition of Eretz Yisrael is only for the purpose of observing the Torah.

The Place Where Yaakov Davened

Question #1: Ascending Har Habayis Today

“I have been told that it can be halachically permitted to ascend Har Habayis, and I have also heard that it is forbidden and could violate some very severe Torah laws. Which is true?”

Question #2: Non-Jews in the Beis Hamikdash

“Where in the Beis Hamikdash may a non-Jew pray?”

Question #3: Is Yaakov second rate?

“If Yaakov created the maariv prayer, why is his prayer treated as inferior to those created by Avraham and Yitzchak? After all, the Gemara’s conclusion is that tefillas arvis reshus, the evening prayer is optional (Brachos 27b).”

Introduction:

Our parsha opens: “Then Yaakov left Be’er Sheva, heading towards Haran. And he stopped at the place and spent the night there because the sun had already set.” Rashi raises the question that the posuk should say that he stopped at “a” place, not “the” place; it is clearly referring to a place with which we are already familiar. Rashi explains that this refers to Har Hamoriah, where Akeidas Yitzchok took place. We are more familiar with referring to this mountain as Har Habayis, literally, “the mountain of The House,” upon which the Beis Hamikdash was later built.

Chazal derive from here that Yaakov arrived at this holy place and instituted the prayer of maariv. Shelomoh Hamelech prayed that the Beis Hamikdash should be a place for both Jews and non-Jews to worship Hashem (see Melachim I 8:41), and this spirit is again emphasized in a later prophecy, ki beisi beis tefillah yikarei lechol ha’amim (Yeshayahu 56:8) “My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations.”

This provides an opportunity to discuss the laws mentioned in the Mishnah describing the different levels of sanctity that apply to the Land of Israel and the Beis Hamikdash area, all laws that we need to know today and will need to know even more thoroughly when the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt, bimheirah be’yameinu.

The first chapter of Mesechta Keilim, which is an introduction to the entire seder and the concepts of Taharos, closes with the following: “There are ten levels of sanctity” germane to different places in Eretz Yisrael, and then the Mishnah enumerates the different levels. This article will list and explain these different levels, which should help us understand some of the laws that apply.

(1) Land of Israel

The lowest of these levels of sanctity is “the land of Israel itself, which is holier than all other lands” in that three offerings brought to the Beis Hamikdashkorban omer, bikkurim and the two loaves offered on Shavuos — can be brought only from produce of Eretz Yisrael.

There are many other halachos germane exclusively to Eretz Yisrael, such as that most agricultural mitzvos of the Torah apply only in Eretz Yisrael, at least min haTorah.

The special semicha given by Moshe Rabbeinu that is required for many halachic areas can be issued only in Eretz Yisrael (Sanhedrin 14a; Rambam, Hilchos Sanhedrin 4:6). Another halacha that can be fulfilled only in Eretz Yisrael is the appointment of a king over the Jewish people (Tosefta, Sanhedrin 4:6).

Eastern side of the Jordan

The eastern side of the Jordan became part of the Land of Israel in the days of Moshe, when the kings Sichon and Og attacked the Benei Yisrael, and they and their armies were annihilated. However, these lands were not originally part of the Land of Israel that was promised to the Benei Yisrael when they left Egypt. Can the korban omer, bikkurim and the two loaves of Shavuos be offered from produce of the eastern side of the Jordan River, which was not part of the originally promised Eretz Yisrael?

This is the subject of a dispute among the rishonim, in which Rashi (Sanhedrin 11b s.v. al shetayim and Menachos 83b s.v. kol ha’aratzos) rules that these korbanos can be brought from the eastern side of the Jordan, whereas the Ran (Nedorim 22a s.v. hahi) rules that they cannot.

(2) Walled Israeli cities

The next level of sanctity is that the walled cities of Eretz Yisrael, according to the Mishnah, are holier than other places in Eretz Yisrael in the following two ways:

(1) A metzora may not remain in these cities.

(2) Once a meis has been removed from these cities, it may not be returned. (And certainly if the person died outside a walled city, his remains may not be brought into the city). The Rambam and the Raavad disagree whether this ruling includes an absolute prohibition to bury someone in a walled city in Eretz Yisrael (Raavad, Hilchos Beis Habechirah 7:13) or whether someone who died within the walled city may be buried in the city (Rambam ad loc.). All agree that once the meis was removed from the walled city, it may not be returned to the city, and certainly may not be buried there.

Capital punishment

According to many early authorities, another law about the walled cities of Eretz Yisrael is that when a Beis Din carried out capital punishment, this was required to be performed outside a walled city in Eretz Yisrael (Rash and Rosh, Keilim 1:7, based on Mishnah Sanhedrin 42b; see also Tosafos ad loc. s.v. beis).

Purim

An obvious question is — why did I not mention that there is a difference in that the walled cities celebrate Purim on the fifteenth of Adar, sometimes called Shushan Purim, whereas unwalled cities celebrate Purim on the fourteenth of Adar.

The answer is that this has nothing to do with walled cities in Eretz Yisrael; even walled cities outside Eretz Yisrael that date back to the time of Yehoshua entering Eretz Yisrael would celebrate Purim on the 15th (see Ran, Megillah 2a s.v. kerachin, in the name of Tosafos).

(3) Yerushalayim

The third level is the walled city of Yerushalayim, in which it is permitted to eat maaser sheini, the meat of kodshim kalim (Keilim 1:8)such as korban pesach and shelamim, and bikkurim (see Bikkurim 2:2).

By the way, the current “Old City” walls of Yerushalayim, constructed by the Ottoman Turks almost 1500 years after the churban, are not the borders that define the halachic sanctity of the city. Without question, there are areas outside the current walls that did have the sanctity of Yerushalayim, and the walls probably encompass areas that were not part of the city at the times of Tanach and Chazal, and, therefore, do not have the sanctity of Yerushalayim. When Moshiach comes, it will be necessary to determine exactly where the borders of the halachic “old city” of Yerushalayim are.

(4) Har Habayis

The fourth level is Har Habayis, beyond which many tamei people may not enter, including zavim, zavos, niddos and women after childbirth, until they have been able to complete the first stage of their taharah process. Because of space considerations, we cannot explain the details of these types of tumah, but our readers should be aware that, because of these laws, many people who ascend the Har Habayis today violate a Torah prohibition equivalent to eating treif food.

For clarification purposes: In addition to walls surrounding the city of Yerushalayim, there were also walls surrounding the entire Har Habayis. The Kosel HaMaaravi, where we daven, is part of the western wall of the Har Habayis. These are not the walls of the Beis Hamikdash. The Beis Hamikdash occupied only a small area of the Har Habayis. Although the Har Habayis has much more kedusha than that of Yerushalayim, the Beis Hamikdash has much greater kedusha than that of the Har Habayis. Today when we are all temei’im, someone entering the area where the Beis Hamikdash once stood is chayov kareis, an extremely severe punishment (Kaftor Vaferech, Chapter 6; Kesef Mishneh, Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 6:14; cf. Ra’avad ad loc., who disagrees).

As we said, the Har Habayis has far less sanctity than the Beis Hamikdash. Nevertheless, most contemporary poskim prohibit ascending the Har Habayis. A minority of poskim permit entering areas of the Har Habayis that are not part of the Beis Hamikdash, in order to daven or perform a mitzvah, but only after performing certain taharah procedures, including washing oneself thoroughly, making certain that there are no chatzitzos (intervening substances on one’s body), and immersing in a mikveh. All agree that it is prohibited to enter any part of the Har Habayis if one is tamei with what halacha calls tumah hayotzei migufo, which includes people who are baalei keri, zav, zavah, niddah and yoledes.

Ascending Har Habayis today

At this point, let us address our opening question:

“I have been told that it can be halachically permitted to ascend Har Habayis, and I have also heard that it is forbidden and could violate some very severe Torah laws. Which is true?”

The answer is that most people who ascend the Har Habayis are, unfortunately, violating major halachos, and, for this reason, the vast majority of contemporary halachic authorities rule that no one, except for security personnel when necessary, should ever ascend Har Habayis. Unfortunately, since it has now become “stylish” in many circles to ascend the Har Habayis, many people are violating halachos, somethingthat they would never have done on their own without encouragement.

(5) Cheil

The fifth level is the “cheil,” beyond which non-Jews may not proceed, nor Jews who are tamei meis. The word “cheil” means a wall or fortification (see Tehillim 48:14, Yeshayahu 26:1). Most authorities assume that the sanctity of the cheil over the Har Habayis is only a rabbinic injunction, and that min haTorah it is permitted to enter the cheil with this level of tumah, but prohibited from entering the Beis Hamikdash proper (Raavad, Hilchos Beis Habechirah 7:16; Rash, Rosh and Gra, Keilim 1:8).

This is the first time the Mishnah has mentioned the category called tamei meis, tumah contracted through contact with a corpse. (Someone who was ever in the same room or under the same roof as a corpse also becomes tamei meis.) This status creates a major halachic concern, because it is a severe Torah prohibition to enter the Beis Hamikdash grounds while tamei, and virtually everyone today has become tamei meis. Although other forms of tumah can be removed by immersion in a mikveh at the appropriate time, tumas meis can be removed only by sprinkling on the person who is tamei from the water in which was mixed ashes of the parah adumah (the red cow or heifer whose processing is described by the Torah in parshas Chukas and in mesechta Parah). Since we do not know where the remaining ashes of the previously prepared paros adumos are, we cannot purify ourselves from tumas meis.

At this point, we can address the second of our opening questions: “Where in the Beis Hamikdash may a non-Jew pray?”

The answer is that he may pray anywhere on the Har Habayis that he would like, as long as it outside the cheil area. Technically speaking, this means that he is praying near the Beis Hamikdash, but not inside it.

(6) Ezras Nashim

The sixth level is the Ezras Nashim. The term “ezras nashim” is used today to mean the area of a shul which is designated for the women to daven. The original term refers to an area of the Beis Hamikdash, or, more technically, the entrance area of the Beis Hamikdash. Beyond this area, only someone completely tahor may enter. It is called the Ezras Nashim because women usually did not enter past this point, although they could, if there was a halachic reason for them to do so.

We should note that the Beis Hamikdash is oriented westward. In other words, from the Ezras Nashim until the Kodesh Hakodoshim, which is the highest level of sanctity, we are entering on the east, and moving toward the west, with the Kodesh Hakodoshim being the western most area of the Beis Hamikdash.

The Beis Hamikdash was not centered in the middle of the Har Habayis, but on its west-northwest side (Rambam, Hilchos Beis Habechirah 5:6). The Ezras Nashim is the beginning of the Beis Hamikdash itself.

(7) Ezras Yisrael

The seventh level is the Ezras Yisrael, beyond which anyone tamei is prohibited from entering min haTorah. Even someone with a very mild amount of residual tumah, called mechusar kippurim, may not enter this area.

The term Ezras Yisrael does not mean “He who helps Israel,” or “the help of Israel” (as it does when used in davening) but comes from the word azarah, as it is used many times in Yechezkel and Divrei Hayamim, where it refers to the “courtyard,” the enclosed areas of the Beis Hamikdash that are outside the Kodesh or Heichal. The term Ezras Nashim that we mentioned previously also uses the word azarah in the same sense.

(8) Ezras Kohanim

The eighth level is the area called the Ezras Kohanim. Normally, only kohanim are allowed to enter past this point, although there are circumstances in which a Yisrael is permitted to enter past this area to carry out some halachic responsibility.

The Ezras Kohanim was a strip of area alongside the eastern side of the mizbei’ach.

At this point, it is appropriate to quote the words of the Rambam: “The location of the mizbeiach is extremely exact, and it may never be moved from its location… We have an established tradition that the place where David and Shelomoh built the mizbeiach is the same place where Avraham built the mizbeiach and bound Yitzchak. This is the same place where Noach built a mizbeiach when he left the Ark and where Kayin and Hevel built their mizbeiach. It is the same place where Adam offered the first korban, and it is the place where he (Adam) was created….

“The dimensions and shape of the mizbeiach are very exact. The mizbeiach constructed when the Jews returned from the first exile was built according to the dimensions of the mizbeiach that will be built in the future. One may not add or detract from its size” (Hilchos Beis Habechirah 2:1-3). Prior to building the second Beis Hamikdash, the prophets Chaggai, Zecharyah and Malachi testified regarding three halachos about the mizbeiach that were necessary to reinstitute the korbanos, one of which was the exact location of the mizbeiach (Zevachim 62a).

(9) Between the mizbei’ach and the Kodesh

The ninth level is the area past the mizbei’ach, to which a kohein with a blemish or one who has not had his hair cut properly may not enter.

As the Mishnah teaches, a kohein with either of these disqualifications may not perform the service in the Beis Hamikdash, and if he did, the korban that he worked with became invalid (Mishnah Zevachim 15b).

(10) The Kodesh

The tenth level is the Kodesh. In the Beis Hamikdash, there actually was an area in front of the Kodesh called the Ulam, which has the same level of kedusha as the Kodesh. The the ulam area did not exist in the Mishkan.

Inside the Kodesh area was where the menorah, the shulchan and the golden mizbei’ach stood. The golden mizbei’ach was used daily only for the burning of the ketores, although on Yom Kippur it was also used for some of the holiest of the korbanos, those that were brought into the Kodesh Hakodoshim.

(11) The Kodesh Hakodoshim

The highest level of sanctity is that of the Kodesh Hakodoshim. This was entered only by the Kohein Gadol and only on Yom Kippur. In actuality, the Kohein Gadol entered the Kodesh Hakodoshim four times on Yom Kippur: The first time was with the Yom Kippur ketores, the second time to begin the kaparah of his special Yom Kippur bull offering, the third time to attend to the kaparah of the goat offering, and the fourth time, later in the day, to pick up the censer and the ladle with which he had offered the ketores when he first entered.

But one second; you told me that the Mishnah says that there are ten levels of sanctity, and then you listed eleven. This is inconsistent!

You are indeed correct. At the end of their commentaries to this chapter, the Rash and the Bartenura raise this question, to which there are many answers. The Rambam seems to understand that the first level that I counted, Eretz Yisrael, should not be included: The Mishnah is listing ten levels of sanctity above Eretz Yisrael.

Conclusion: Was Yaakov third rate?

At this point, let us return to the third of our opening questions: If each of our three daily prayers was established by one of our forefathers, why is it that two of these prayers are obligatory, and yet the Gemara concludes that maariv is optional? Even if we understand the Gemara to mean, as some rishonim explain, that it is only relatively optional – meaning that davening maariv is mandatory, but that it is more easily deferred – we want to know why Yaakov seems to get a second-rate standing. After all, he is considered the most chosen of the forefathers, bechir shebe’avos, so why should his prayer be considered of lesser importance?

The Penei Yehoshua (Berachos 26b s.v. mihu) explains that Yaakov never intended to create a new prayer at night, but intended to daven mincha! Suddenly, Hashem made the sun set, and it got dark early, in order to force Yaakov to stop at that place. Thus, Yaakov’s prayer was because he had missed mincha, but not because he was trying to institute a prayer in the evening. Since his creation of maariv was unintentional, it shows no lack of respect for Yaakov to suggest that it may have more lenient rules than the prayers created by Avraham and Yitzchak, shacharis and mincha.

Gifts to the Poor

Question #1: Living in Chutz la’aretz

“I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to leave peah in my backyard vegetable patch?”

Question #2: Leaving in Today’s World

“Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and peah in your field today?”

Question #3: Cluster Alms

“Why is it important to know how a typical cluster of grapes looks?”

Introduction

While harvesting grain and other produce, the Torah presents six different mitzvah opportunities to provide for the poor: leket, shich’cha, peah, peret, oleilos, and maaser ani. These mitzvos, as well as many of the basic laws of the mitzvah of tzedakah, are discussed in the second mesechta of seder Zera’im, mesechta Peah, and in the commentaries thereon, including the Talmud Yerushalmi. As is the case with all the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, the agricultural mitzvos of the Torah, there is no Talmud Bavli on Peah, although many of its topics are discussed, sometimes in great detail, in scattered places.

This article will provide a basic understanding of some of these six mitzvos and cover a few select details. In so doing, we will answer some of the questions asked above and leave the others for a future article.

Let us begin by quoting the pesukim that introduce these mitzvos. In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah mentions the mitzvos of peah, leket, peret and oleilos: When you reap the harvest of your land, do not complete harvesting the corner of your field, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. From your vineyard, do not remove the “oleilos,” and the “peret” of your vineyard you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger (Vayikra 19:9-10).

I deliberately did not translate the words leket, oleilos and peret, since I will explain what these technical terms mean. Two of these mitzvos, peah and leket, are repeated in parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:22), in the midst of the Torah’s discussion about the festival cycle (parshas hamo’ados): When cutting the harvest of your land, do not complete the reaping of the corner of your field while you are harvesting, and the “leket” of your harvest you should not collect. Leave them for the poor and the stranger. In addition, the two mitzvos of peret and oleilos are again discussed at the end of parshas Ki Seitzei (Devorim 24:21), immediately following the Torah’s instructing the mitzvah of shich’cha. (We will quote the sources for the mitzvos of shich’cha and matanos aniyim later in this article.)

Several halachos are quite clear from these pesukim, even without any commentary. The mitzvah is to leave behind these four items: peah, leket, oleilos and peret and allow the impoverished to help themselves. This implies that the owner may not choose or favor one pauper over another in the distribution of these gifts, and that neither he, nor anyone else, is even permitted to assist one poor person over another. To quote the Mishnah: He who does not allow the poor to collect, or allows one of them to collect but not another, or helps one of them is stealing from the poor (Peah 5:6). This law applies equally to anyone, not only the field owner, who assists one poor person over another (see Peah 4:9).

Corner

At this point, we will explain the basics of the mitzvah of peah. The requirement of peah is to set aside a portion of your field that you do not harvest. There is no minimal requirement min haTorah regarding how large a section of the field must be designated as peah. In other words, the Torah’s mitzvah is fulfilled if someone sets aside only one stalk of grain. To quote the Mishnah: These items have no measured requirement: Peah, bikkurim, appearing in the Beis Hamikdosh on the festivals, performing kind deeds and studying Torah (Peah 1:1). This Mishnah is the basis for a halachic passage that we say every morning after we recite birkas haTorah, but what we say daily has other parts added to it from other statements of Chazal.

Why does the Mishnah mention only these five mitzvos? Are there no other mitzvos that have no “minimum amount” required in order to fulfill them?

Indeed, these are the only five mitzvos that fulfill the statement that they have no measured requirement, because min haTorah, these mitzvos have no minimum and also no maximum, whereas all other mitzvos have either a minimum or a maximum, min haTorah. The commentaries on this Mishnah raise questions about several other mitzvos that seemingly should be included in this list, making it more than five, and explain why each of these other mitzvos is not mentioned (Rash; Tosafos Yom Tov; Mishnah Rishonah).

Not all produce

Returning to the laws of peah, not everything that is grown must have peah separated from it. The Mishnah notes that only produce that has five specific characteristics is included in the mitzvah of peah. To quote the Mishnah: They (the earlier authorities) stated a rule regarding peah. Anything that (1) is food, (2) is guarded, (3) is nourished from the ground, (4) is reaped at one time, and (5) is brought in for long-term storage is obligated in peah. Grain and legumes are always assumed to be included (Peah 1:4).

In other words, the following categories of produce are exempt from peah:

(1) Products grown for feed or for dyestuffs (such as woad or indigo).

(2) Produce that is hefker, meaning that it is evident that the owner has no concern if other people take it.

(3) Cultivated mushrooms, truffles, and other fungi, because they do not draw their nourishment from the ground.

(4) Some varieties of produce do not ripen all at once. Instead, they are harvested in stages, as each fruit ripens. These types of products, such as figs, are exempt from the mitzvah of peah.

(5) Many varieties of vegetables and other produce cannot be stored unless they are frozen or canned. Any of these types of produce are exempt from peah. However, items that can be dried or stored as is, such as grain, beans, peas, carobs, nuts, grapes (can be stored either as wine or as raisins), olives (as oil) or dates (dried) are obligated in peah.

How much peah?

Earlier, we quoted the Mishnah that ruled that the Torah requirement of the mitzvah of peah has no minimum size. The Mishnah subsequently teaches that although the Torah did not require a minimum to fulfill this mitzvah, Chazal did, enacting a rule requiring the owner to set aside at least 1/60 of his field as peah. Furthermore, he is required to set aside a larger part than this for peah under some special circumstances, such as, he had a bumper crop, he is exceptionally wealthy, there are a lot of poor or the impoverished are exceptionally needy (Peah 1:2 according to various commentaries).

Corner

Must peah be in a corner of the field?

Notwithstanding that the Torah calls the mitzvah peah, and that, in the context of other mitzvos of the Torah, the word peah means a corner of some type, it is not required to set aside peah in a corner of the field, nor does it necessarily have to be set aside when the harvest is finished. In addition, at the beginning of the harvest, the owner may designate a part of his field as peah. To quote the Mishnah: You can give peah from the beginning of the field or from its middle (Peah 1:3).

Three times a day, the owner must appear at his field to allow the poor to collect what they are entitled (Peah 4:5). The three times of the day are in the morning, at midday and towards the late part of the afternoon. There appears to be a dispute among halachic authorities exactly what this Mishnah is ruling. According to some authorities, the poor may not enter the field unless the owner, or his representative, is there, but the owner is required to be there at these three times, or otherwise appoint a representative in his stead, who will be in the field these three times every harvest day (Rashas; Mishnah Rishonah).

The Rambam appears to understand the Mishnah and the halacha somewhat differently: The poor may not enter the field at any other time, but during these three times they are free to enter, whether or not the owner or his representative are there (Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 2:17). In his opinion, the Mishnah should be understood as follows: “Three times a day the pauper may appear at the field.”

Nobody get hurt!

The halacha is that the poor people reaping the peah may not use sickles or spades to gain access to the leftover produce. Since many poor people are in the field, and they are not coordinating their activities, using a heavy tool could cause someone to get hurt (Peah 4:4).

Exceptional distributions

As noted above, peah and the other matanos aniyim that we have so far discussed should be left for the poor to take for themselves. However, there are exceptions:

(1) Something that is dangerous for the poor to harvest themselves. The Mishnah (Peah 4:1) chooses two examples of fruit — dates and grapes growing on trellises — where it might be dangerous for the poor to harvest the peah themselves (Rosh, Rav and Rashas ad loc.). Dates grow only on the new growth of a date palm. Since the dates will be only on the top of the tree and a palm tree can grow quite tall, it could certainly endanger the poor people, should they have to harvest the dates themselves.

Similarly, grapes grow on vines which are basically runners, rather than strong trees. To maximize the quantity and quality of their crop, it is common that vinedressers (people who cultivate grapevines) construct wooden frames called trellises, looking something like a jungle gym, and train the grape vines, which are very easy to educate, to grow on these trellises. However, it is not safe to allow the poor people to come collecting the peret grapes by themselves from trellises. Numerous poor people may attempt simultaneously to collect the grapes left on a trellis, and a trellis may not be strong enough to hold their collective weight.

To avoid people endangering themselves, in these instances the harvester cuts down the peah fruit and distributes what is there evenly among the poor who have assembled (Peah 4:1).

(2) A second case where the owner should harvest and distribute the produce is when all of the poor people who have arrived at the field want it divided evenly (Peah 4:2).

Maaser ani

Maaser ani is mentioned in parshas Ki Savo, where the Torah states: When you complete the tithing of all the tithes of your produce in the third year, the year of the special tithe, then you shall make certain to give it to the Levi, the stranger, to the orphan and the widow, and they shall eat it within the gates of your cities and be satisfied (Devorim 26:12).

This posuk talks about creating at least two different tithes, and mentions that the third year has a special tithe that the earlier years do not have. In the third year, you must then give one maaser to the Levi, which we call maaser rishon, and a second maaser to the stranger, orphan or widow, which is clearly meant to be a maaser for the poor. This mitzvah of maaser ani is also mentioned in an indirect way, in parshas Re’eih (Devorim 14:28-29).

Thus, there is a fundamental difference between maaser ani and the other gifts to the poor in that, in general, the others are left for the poor people to help themselves. In other words, a poor person who is more agile and willing to work hard can collect a great deal more leket, shich’cha, peah, peret and oleilos then someone who has difficulty getting around. However, the posuk in parshas Ki Savo states that the owner gives the maaser ani to the poor. This implies that he can choose which poor person he wants to provide. In general, it is his to distribute to the poor, as he chooses.

Answering questions

At this point, we have enough background to the general laws of these mitzvos that we can return to of our opening questions.  The first question was: “I live in chutz la’aretz. Am I required to separate peah on my backyard vegetable patch?”

In other words, do any of these mitzvos of matanos la’aniyim apply outside Eretz Yisroel?

Matanos aniyim in chutz la’aretz

Although these mitzvos are halachically categorized as mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, agricultural mitzvos, and the general rule is that these mitzvos apply only in Eretz Yisroel (Mishnah Kiddushin 36b), the Gemara (Chullin 137b) mentions that the mitzvah of peah applies in chutz la’aretz as a rabbinic injunction, and the Rambam explains that this includes all matanos aniyim (Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:14). We find this applies to several other of the mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz, including challah, chodosh, terumos and maasros (because of space constraints, the details and definition of these different mitzvos will be left for other articles).

However, this does not yet resolve our question; regarding rabbinic injunctions germane to mitzvos hateluyos ba’aretz that are extended to chutz la’aretz, we find two different sets of rules:

In the case of challah, the mitzvah is applied to anywhere in chutz la’aretz. This is why, no matter where you live, you are obligated to separate challah from a large enough dough.

On the other hand, in the case of terumos and maasros, the requirement to separate them in chutz la’aretz applies only in lands near Eretz Yisroel, such as Mitzrayim, Amon, and Moav – today corresponding to parts of Egypt, Jordan and the Sinai and Negev deserts. There is no requirement to separate terumos and maasros from produce grown in Europe, anywhere else in Africa, the vast majority of Asia, and certainly not from produce grown in the Americas or Australia. (Which rule applies to chodosh is a topic for a different time.)

The question at hand is whether the matanos aniyim have the same halacha that applies to terumos and maasros, and therefore they apply only in lands near Eretz Yisroel, or whether they are treated like challah and apply everywhere. Most authorities conclude that the obligation of matanos aniyim applies only in places near Eretz Yisroel.

At this point, let us focus on the other question that we posed: “Is there a requirement to leave leket, shich’cha and peah in your field, today?”

Answering this question correctly requires that we explain another principle. Above I mentioned the Mishnah that states that if all of the poor people in a certain place want the peah to be divided evenly among them, rather than being available for each to forage as best he can, indeed the peah is divided evenly among the local poor. We can ask a question: Granted that the local poor people all agree to divide the matanos aniyim equally, however, these gifts do not belong only to them. All poor people, no matter where they live, are entitled to these matanos. If so, how can the locals decide to divide among themselves the matanos aniyim without taking into consideration the rights of those elsewhere, who are also potential owners of the matanos aniyim?

The answer is that the poor people who are not here have clearly been me’ya’eish, implicitly given up their legal right to the matanos aniyim that are here (see Bava Metzia 21b). The poskim conclude that any situation in which the owner can assume that the poor will not come to collect the matanos aniyim that are left in the field, he is permitted to collect them (Derech Emunah, Hilchos Matanos Aniyim 1:62).

Conclusion

In the days of King Munbaz there was a drought, and he distributed the entire royal treasury, accumulated over several generations, to the poor. His family members protested, saying that his predecessors had all increased the wealth of the monarchy, and Munbaz was disbursing it. Munbaz responded, “My ancestors stored below, and I stored above. They stored their wealth in a place where it could be stolen, and I stored in a place from where it cannot be stolen. They stored items that do not produce profits and I stored items that do. They stored money, and I stored lives. They stored for others, and I stored for myself” (Bava Basra 11a).

Planting Kil’ayim

Question #1: Spelt

I understand that spelt is a type of wheat. May I plant a small patch of it next to my wheat field?

Question #2: Trees and Ornamentals

I purchased a property in Israel that has grapes and other trees and ornamentals growing on it. What do I do to avoid violating the prohibition of kil’ayim?

Question #3: Tomatoes

May I plant various types of tomatoes next to one another?

Foreword:

In parshas Ki Seitzei, the Torah teaches the mitzvah not to plant your vineyard with kil’ayim (Devarim 22:9), after which the Torah mentions two other kil’ayim prohibitions: doing work with different animal species together and wearing shatnez. In parshas Kedoshim, the Torah introduces several mitzvos called kil’ayim when it says, “You shall keep my laws. You shall not breed your animals as kil’ayim, you shall not plant your field as kil’ayim and you shall not wear kil’ayim shatnez garments” (Vayikra 19:19).

I have written many times about the prohibitions of wearing shatnez, grafting one tree min (species) onto another and crossbreeding animals, but I have never written an article devoted to this week’s topic — the kil’ayim prohibitions in a vineyard and in a field. Please note that this article is only a general introduction to these mitzvos and not halacha le’maaseh — the topics are far more complex than can be covered in one article. For this reason, the opening questions in this article are going to be left unanswered.

Kil’ei hakerem

Kil’ei hakerem is the prohibition of planting an herbaceous (meaning non-woody, i.e.  – a plant other than a trees or a shrub), cultivated plant in a vineyard or adjacent to a grapevine. This mitzvah applies min haTorah in Eretz Yisrael and as a rabbinic prohibition in chutz la’aretz (Orlah 3:9; Kiddushin 39a). It also includes planting above or below grapes, such as, if the vine is trained onto a trellis or other framework.

Kil’ei hakerem is the only instance in which the Torah prohibits using what grows in violation of the kil’ayim prohibition. Other kil’ayim mitzvos prohibit only the act, but what grows or develops as a result may be used. (The Yerushalmi, Kil’ayim 1:4, permits using even the cutting developed from a forbidden graft.)

There is a major dispute among tana’im and rishonim whether kil’ei hakerem applies even when planting one species other than grapes in a vineyard, or only when two species other than the grapes are planted in a vineyard. Rav Yoshiyah rules that the lo sa’aseh of kil’ei hakerem applies only when planting both wheat and barley (or any two other species that are kil’ayim with one another) in a vineyard. Since the Torah says, “You shall not plant kil’ayim in your vineyard,” Rav Yoshiyah understands this to mean that someone is planting two varieties that are kil’ayim with each other, in a vineyard, which compounds the prohibition.

Vineyard vs. vines

There are major halachic differences between a few grapevines and what is halachically called a vineyard. The most prominent difference is that it is prohibited to plant any type of grain or most vegetables within four amos (about seven feet) of a vineyard, whereas it is forbidden to plant only within six tefachim, which is less than two feet, of a grapevine that is not part of a vineyard.

What is a vineyard?

So, what is a vineyard?

The halacha is that a vineyard must have at least five grapevines growing, four of which are positioned in a rectangle or square. Exactly how the fifth vine is planted is unclear from the Mishnah (Kil’ayim 4:6), and is disputed by the halachic authorities. The Chazon Ish rules that a vineyard requires that the fifth vine continues in a straight line from two of the other vines. In other words, the minimum definition of a vineyard is two parallel grape plantings, one of at least three plantings and the other of at least two.

Others contend that the fifth vine can also be similar to the way one would envision, from a bird’s eye view, the location of the tail relative to the four legs of an animal standing in rapt attention. The four legs form a rectangle, and the tail is alongside the rectangle, but opposite the middle of a side rather than the continuation of one of its sides (Rambam, Peirush Mishnayos, Kil’ayim 4:6; Tosafos Yom Tov; cf., however, Rambam, Hilchos Kil’ayim 7:7).

If five vines have been planted this way, and alongside them many more vines were planted haphazardly, the disorganized vines might not be considered a vineyard, but individual vines. The practical difference is whether vegetables and grains may be planted nearby, as long as they are more than six tefachim from the vines, or whether the laws of a vineyard apply, which requires a much more substantive distance of four amos. In both instances, construction of a tzuras hapesach or other mechitzah will allow planting the vegetables or grains alongside the vines, as long as the mechitzah separates between the vines and the vegetables or grains.

One row of grapevines is not considered a vineyard, even if it contains hundreds of plantings (Kil’ayim 4:5). This means that one may plant vegetables or grains alongside the grapes, as long as there is a six tefachim distance between them.

Kil’ei hakerem in chutz la’aretz

The rules of kil-ei hakerem in Eretz Yisrael are stricter than they are in chutz la’aretz. In chutz la’aretz, there is a rule, kol hameikil ba’aretz, halacha kemoso bechutz la’aretz. For our purposes, this rule means that since the law of kil’ei hakerem in chutz la’aretz is only miderabbanan, Chazal ruled that whenever a recognized scholar ruled that a particular situation is not considered kil’ayim in Eretz Yisrael, even when the halachic conclusion rules against him, one may follow this minority position in chutz la’aretz. For example, since Rav Yoshiyah rules that kil’ei hakerem is prohibited only when planting two species (that are already prohibited together) in a vineyard, this is the only act of kil’ei hakerem prohibited in chutz la’aretz. However, in Eretz Yisrael, there is concern over planting even a single type of vegetable in a vineyard.

Kil’ei zera’im

Kil’ei hasadeh or kil’ei zera’im (two ways of referring to the same prohibition) is planting two non-woody (also called “herbaceous”) commonly cultivated plants or seeds near one another, planting one species very close to another, already-planted species, or planting the seeds of one species on top or inside a specimen of another species. This mitzvah applies only in Eretz Yisrael. In chutz la’aretz, it is permitted to plant two herbaceous plants next to one another, although some authorities prohibit planting the seed of one species on top of or inside another in chutz la’aretz (Rambam, Hilchos Kil’ayim 1:5; Tosafos Chullin 60a s.v. Hirkiv). Therefore, in Eretz Yisrael, someone planting a garden patch must be very careful to keep the different species separate.

Both prohibitions, kil’ei hakerem and kil’ei zera’im exist, even if the species are not intentionally planted together, but grew on their own (Kil’ayim 2:5). In this instance, if the two species are too close together, one either must pull out one, or, as we will see shortly, build a mechitzah between them.

Introductions

Several important introductions will facilitate understanding the laws of these mitzvos.

A. Firstly, many assume that kil’ayim prohibits hybridization or crossbreeding (two ways of saying the same thing) of unlike species, or, in simpler terms, attempting to mix genetic material and create new species. However, this approach is inaccurate, since only one of the many kil’ayim prohibitions, crossbreeding animals, attempts to create something that does not occur in nature. All the other mitzvos ban the appearance of mixing two species. This distinction is very important in understanding many of the laws of kil’ayim.

B. Secondly, for clarity’s sake, I will use the word “species” in this article to mean items that halacha prohibits “mixing.” The dictionary definition of the word “species” is “a pool of individuals that breed together and will not breed with other individuals.” However, neither halacha nor science uses this definition. Since this article is a halachic talk about kil’ayim, I will discuss only aspects of the halachic definition germane to these mitzvos.

What defines a halachic species? Although there is a great degree of uncertainty about this, certain principles can be derived from the various passages, particularly of the Talmud Yerushalmi Kil’ayim.

(1) Two varieties that naturally cross-pollinate are halachically considered one species (see Yerushalmi Kil’ayim 1:2).

(2) At times, similarity of leaves or appearance or taste of the fruit are sufficient evidence to consider two varieties as members of the same species (Yerushalmi Kil’ayim 1:5). Small differences are never considered significant (Bava Kama 55a). Thus, different varieties, one of which grows wild and the other of which is cultivated, are usually one species (Mishnah Kil’ayim 1:2). Frequently, the rules are difficult to define and, therefore, most authorities recommend not growing two similar varieties of squash or beans together.

C. It is also important to note that the definition of “species” for the laws of kil’ayim is not the same as it is for the laws of challah. Spelt and wheat are considered different minim for the laws of kil’ayim, notwithstanding that they are the same min for the laws of challah. (This means that dough made of spelt and wheat flour can combine to create enough dough to be obligated to separate challah, notwithstanding that wheat and spelt cannot be planted next to each other.)

Cultivated

D. As I mentioned above, kil’ei zera’im and kil’ei hakerem apply only to species that are cultivated or maintained in your location for food, forage, clothing, dye or other similar purposes. The Mishnah states that the laws of kil’ayim apply to a species called zunin,usually understood to be darnel, a ryegrass that, in earlier generations, was used as bird seed. Planting zunin in a field of barley, rye, oats or spelt violates the prohibition of kil’ei zera’im. (Why it is permitted to plant zunin in a wheat field [Mishnah Kil’ayim 1:1] is a topic that we will leave for a different time.)

Proximity

Planting two crop species together or near one another is prohibited as kil’ayim. How far apart the two species must be depends on several factors, including the layout of the planting and what and how much was planted. In some situations, when growing small amounts of certain vegetables, planting the two species in alternate patterns is sufficient to permit the planting, notwithstanding that the different species grow alongside one another (Kil’ayim 3:1; Shabbos 84b ff.).

Between two grain fields of different species — for example, one growing spelt and the other rye — there needs to be an empty area greater than ten amos squared, approximately twenty feet by twenty feet, between the two fields. On the other hand, between two kinds of vegetables, the requirement is that the separating area be only six tefachim squared, approximately two feet by two feet. And even the size of this requirement is only miderabbanan. Min haTorah there is a dispute among rishonim whether the distance is one tefach squared, or 1.5 tefachim squared (Raavad, Hilchos Kil’ayim). The Chazon Ish (5:1) ruled according to the Rambam, the lenient opinion, that requires only one tefach squared, approximately four inches by four inches.

Mechitzah

Although we usually think of mechitzah as a separation necessary in a shul, the word has significance in several other areas of halacha, and particularly in the laws of kil’ayim. For the purposes of kil’ayim, whenever one wants to plant two species and there is not enough space to allow this, a halachically acceptable separation between the plantings permits the planting (Kil’ayim 2:8; 4:6). The rules here are similar to what is called a mechitzah for other halachos, including permitting carrying on Shabbos, although, for the laws of Shabbos, the entire area must be enclosed by mechitzos on all sides. For the laws of kil’ayim, it suffices that there is a halachic divider separating the plantings from one another. Among the many ways that someone can separate the two areas is by building a wall that is ten tefachim tall (approximately 32-40 inches) or piling rocks to a height of ten tefachim. Another option is a furrow or crevice in the ground, either natural or dug, that is ten tefachim deep.

The Mishnah (Kil’ayim 4:4) notes that lavud, openings that are smaller than three tefachim (about ten inches), does not invalidate a mechitzah, and therefore a fence that is more open than closed, but is ten tefachim tall, is a valid mechitzah for kil’ayim purposes. Similarly, one may build a “wall” with sticks placed either horizontally or vertically every three tefachim, and it is a satisfactory mechitzah.

This means that someone may have a vineyard on one side of a fence, in which the grapes grow alongside the fence, and plant grain or vegetables on the other side of the fence; it is completely permitted, even though the two crops may be growing within inches of one another.

Gaps

Large gaps in the middle of a mechitzah may not invalidate it. The general halachic principle is that an area that is mostly enclosed is considered “walled,” even in its breached areas (Kil’ayim 4:4; Eruvin 5b). For example, a yard enclosed by hedges tall enough to qualify as halachic walls may be considered enclosed, notwithstanding that there are open areas between the hedges, since each side is predominantly enclosed either by the hedges or by the house. This is true as long as the breach is smaller than ten amos,about 17 feet (Kil’ayim 4:4). This means that someone may have a vineyard on one side of the hedges (inedible growths usually do not create prohibited kil’ayim), and grain or vegetables on the other side of the hedges, even though the two crops may be extremely close to one another.

Tzuras hapesach

The Gemara (Eruvin 11a) rules that a tzuras hapesach, which we customarily use to make to enclose an area to permit carrying on Shabbos, may be used to separate two species, so that there is no prohibition of kil’ayim. A tzuras hapesach consists of two vertical side posts and a horizontal “lintel” that, together, vaguely resemble a doorway. Thus, it is permitted to grow a vineyard on one side of the tzuras hapesach and grain or vegetables on the other side.

Weeding

What about weeds? Do weeds present a kil’ayim concern?

As anyone who gardens knows, the definition of a “weed” is whatever the gardener does not want in his garden. Halachically, if the “weed” is from a species that is not maintained in your area, it is not a kil’ayim concern.

Conclusion

Targum Onkelos (Vayikra 19:19 and Devarim 22:9) understands the word kil’ayim to mean “mixture.” However, other commentaries explain the origin of the word from the Hebrew root כלא, the same as the word beis ke’le “prison” (see Bamidbar 11:28). Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) explains that the root כלא means to hold something back, and that the plural form kil’ayim — similar to yadayim, hands, or raglayim, feet — means a pair. Therefore, the word kil’ayim means to pair together two items that should be kept apart.

Concerning this, Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) writes, “The Great Lawgiver of the world separates the countless numbers of His creations in all their manifold diversity, and assigns to each one of them a separate purpose and a separate form for its purpose.”

In addition, observing the laws of kil’ayim helps us remember how various species obeyed Hashem’s instructions to remain separate during their creation. This reminds the contemplative Jew that if the plants heeded Hashem’s word during the Creation, how much more are we obligated to obey His instructions!

Tarshish, Canals and Divrei Hayamim

Tarshish, Canals and Divrei Hayamim

Question #1: Where was Tarshish?

Was Tarshish west or east of Eretz Yisrael?

Question #2: Route Canal

Was the ancient spice route accessible via canal?

Question #3: Ezra’s Error

Could Ezra have made a mistake that crept into Divrei Hayamim?

Foreword

We will soon discover that attempting to identify “Tarshish,” mentioned numerous times in Tanach, will lead us to a fascinating search! Let us start with the most basic of questions: Was Tarshish a person, place, or thing?

The answer is “yes.” The word appears in Tanach dozens of times, sometimes as someone’s name (Bereishis 10:4; Esther 1:14; Divrei Hayamim I 7:10), often as the name of a place (Yonah 1:3; Yechezkel 38:13; Tehillim 72:10) and, occasionally, as the name of a precious stone (Shemos 28:20; 39:13; Yechezkel 10:9, 28:13; Shir Hashirim 5:14),

Introduction

Since we know that Yonah went to Yafo, on the Mediterranean Sea, to hire a ship to go to Tarshish, it would appear that this ancient city was located along the Mediterranean basin, or perhaps somewhere along the Atlantic coast of either northern Africa or Western Europe. Yet, from other sources in Tanach, we have evidence that Tarshish was accessible from the Red Sea, an inlet of the Indian Ocean. How could this ancient port have been accessible to both the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian ocean, in an era when rounding Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope on the southern tips of Africa was unknown? The Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, was not constructed until the 19th century!

Let me begin from the basics, so that we can see whether our question is because we overlooked some fundamental information. Yonah has a prophetic vision to go to Nineveh, which we know is in Mesopotamia, an overland trip from where Yonah is in Eretz Yisrael. Although the sefer bearing his name never tells us why, Yonah resists carrying out the word of Hashem, certainly knowing that this jeopardizes his hard-earned reward in olam haba, and instead decides to leave Eretz Yisrael, presumably so that he can no longer receive Hashem’s prophecy. He travels to the major port servicing Eretz Yisrael, Yafo, and leaves by ship to Tarshish.

I know of numerous suggestions as to the identity of Tarshish, including places in Asia Minor, North Africa or Iberia whose name might have been Hebraized to Tarshish, various locations in Italy or on the island of Sardinia, and even suggestions that it might be in Britain, which is also accessible from Eretz Yisrael via the Mediterranean Sea. We will soon see that some commentaries suggest that Tarshish might be cognate to Carthage, on the northern coast of Africa not far from where Tunis is today, which was, at one point, the most powerful port city on the Mediterranean. The word Tarshish may be related to the Hebrew root רשש, to crush, break into bits or impoverish, and thus might be a play on words referring to the city which was home to a sea-based empire and crushed its opposition.

From the words of the prophet Yechezkel (27:12), we know that Tarshish was a source of many valuable metals, although Yirmiyahu Hanavi  (10:9) singles out silver as its valuable export. Assuming that Yirmiyahu and Yechezkel are describing the same place, we can assume that it was located either near an area where many metals, but particularly silver, could be mined, or as a distribution point for them.

Having established from the pasuk in Yonah that Tarshish was a port somewhere in, or accessible from, the Mediterranean basin, we then discover that Shelomoh Hamelech conquered Etzyon Gever, which is a port on the Red Sea (Melachim I, 9, 26; Divrei Hayamim II, 8, 17), an inlet of the Indian Ocean. There (Melachim I, 9, 28), it describes how the merchant ships of Shelomoh Hamelech’s fleet travelled to Ophir to acquire massive amounts of gold, and, later, it describes how Shelomoh Hamelech’s fleet returned from their three years’ journey to Tarshish laden with gold, silver, ivory, and other valuables (Melachim I, 10, 22, see Abarbanel; Divrei Hayamim II, 9, 21).

It is easy to understand the commercial, political and military value of Shelomoh Hamelech establishing a port with access to the Indian Ocean. Eretz Yisrael is located where the massive Eurasian land mass touches slightly on the continent of Africa. This small touch, which we refer to as the Sinai Peninsula, is what preempts Africa from being the largest island on the planet, and, instead, it forms the southern border of the Mediterranean Sea and the western border of the Indian Ocean. Even in ancient times, spices and other valuable goods were shipped from the Far East, especially from India and the Spice Islands, today part of Indonesia, either via ship to Arabian ports, or overland through the Silk Road. Shelomoh Hamelech, with his ally, Hiram, sought to cut out the middlemen along this shipping route and, thus, be able to import these valuables directly from the source. For this reason, he established a port so that he could do business directly with the sources of these valuables on the Indian Ocean and beyond, and control this massive import-export business himself.

By the way, it is curious to note that the early stages of the empire-building and colony- seizing of the European powers in the 15th to 19th centuries were essentially for the same purpose  —  to import directly from the Far East and to establish a monopoly over these trade routes. This is why de Gama, Cabral, Columbus, Magellan and Hudson wanted to discover a sea route to Asia, and why Spain, Portugal, England, Holland and France sought and fought to create worldwide empires and trading posts.

Returning to the topic of Tarshish: Ships left from the new port of Etzyon Gever that Shelomoh Hamelech conquered and established, with access to the Indian Ocean, and traveled to Tarshish, as is also implied by a pasuk later in Melachim (I, 22:49). This leaves us with a major predicament: Where was Tarshish? Was it in or near the Mediterranean Basin, as implied by the pasuk in Yonah, or was it somewhere in the Indian Ocean or beyond, since it took three years to travel by ship from Etzyon Gever there and back, including the time used for trading at its various ports of call?

There are several ways to attempt to resolve this conundrum. I will first share with you those suggested by the Abarbanel and the Malbim. The Abarbanel explains that Tarshish ships, mentioned in the book of Melachim, are not ships traveling to Tarshish, but describe the large, deep-sea vessels capable of making an extensive voyage. These ships left Eretz Yisrael’s western ports, on the Mediterranean, for Tarshish, which he identifies as Carthage, which is what gave these ships their name, but they also left from Etzyon Gever for journeys to the Far East, which was called Ophir. This is the way Abarbanel explains the pasuk that uses Tarshish as a pronoun, “Yehoshofat made ten Tarshish ships to travel to Ophir…that were smashed in Etzyon Gever” (Melachim I, 22:49); Yehoshofat had his shipbuilders manufacture ten large oceangoing vessels to travel to the Far East, but they never made it out of port.

The difficulty that Abarbanel then faces is the verse in Divrei Hayamim (20:36) that recounts this same event, and says that Yehoshofat had manufactured ships in Etzyon Gever to ship to Tarshish, which, according to Abarbanel’s opinion that Tarshish is Carthage, was seemingly impossible at the time. The problem is that the pasuk in Divrei Hayamim is not describing a type of large merchant ship, but a destination. To answer this question, the Abarbanel presents an approach that most of us, and also the Malbim, find unacceptable: “Perhaps Ezra (the author of Divrei Hayamim, see Bava Basra 15a) erred — he found it written that Yehoshofat manufactured Tarshish ships, and he thought that this meant ships to sail to Tarshish, but this is not accurate.” Abarbanel then suggests that, because of a war with Phoenicia, perhaps Yehoshofat was unable to manufacture ships at his Mediterranean coast ports, but had to manufacture them in Etzyon Gever. He then planned to have them travel to the Mediterranean, probably via some canal that connected the Red Sea with the Nile River, but the ships were destroyed en route (as to be expected for an ocean going vessel attempted such a route). I researched and discovered that there had been an ancient canal dug to connect the Nile with the Red Sea, but its purpose was to import and export into Egypt, not to provide a method of transporting goods from Asia to Europe. I presume that, similar to the Erie Canal, it was basically a ditch, suitable for barges and other small craft, but certainly not deep enough for oceangoing vessels.

Let me explain how the Abarbanel can say that Ezra erred, which we consider to be an unacceptable, and perhaps sacrilegious, approach. The Abarbanel wrote extensive annotations to the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim, which some consider its most vital commentary. In his remarks, he is in the forefront of explaining the Rambam’s philosophic positions, whenever the Ramban (in his commentary on the Torah) or other rishonim take issue with the Rambam’s approaches.

Abarbanel, clearly, is following the Rambam’s position that the works of Kesuvim (as opposed to those of Nevi’im) are written with ruach hakodesh (Moreh Nevuchim 2:45), but not with prophecy. In the Rambam’s opinion, ruach hakodesh is Divine inspiration allowing someone to understand and accomplish more than he otherwise would be able (Moreh Nevuchim 2:45); however, there is no reason to assume that it precludes an error in decision making, fact gathering, or even in interpretation of halacha. For example, Rambam includes David Hamelech, Shelomoh Hamelech and Shimshon as having ruach hakodesh, although we know that each of them made severe errors of judgment and that bothShelomoh Hamelechand his father David made halachic errors, notwithstanding their ruach hakodesh.

Malbim (Commentary to Melachim I 10, 22) finds Abarbanel’s approach to be unacceptable. Instead, he suggests that Yehoshofat’s ships left Etzyon Gever for Tarshish, which he identifies with a port city on the Atlantic coast of Spain. This approach has the advantage that there was only one Tarshish and it was accessible from the Mediterranean. The Malbim understands that ships from any of Eretz Yisrael’s ports could access Tarshish by way of the open ocean, implying that ships left Etzyon Gever for Tarshish by circumnavigating the African continent.

However, this approach does not satisfy me. Eretz Yisrael had ports, at the time, in both Yafo and Akko, which have easy access to the Mediterranean. The vitality of a port at Etzyon Gever was that it has easy access, via the Gulf of Eilat, to the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.

I am surprised that neither Abarbanel or Malbim even mention what I consider the obvious answer, one that the Gemara and the rishonim mention in several other contexts regarding place names – that there are two places with the same name (Arachin 32b; Tosafos, Gittin 2a s.v. VeAshkelon). It is obvious, for example, that Har Hahar describes two different places in chumash; the place where Aharon is buried is somewhere on the eastern side of the Jordan River (Bamidbar, Chapters 20 and 33), and the Har Hahar mentioned as the northwest border of Eretz Yisrael (Bamidbar 34:7,8) is, obviously, along the Mediterranean coast, somewhere to the north of contemporary Israel. I am aware of at least six opinions exactly which seaside mountain should be identified with Har Hahar on the Mediterranean, but none of them is the burial place of Aharon.

Thus, the obvious answer to the question is that more than one place was called Tarshish. Since the word tarshish is also the name of a precious stone, as in one of the stones that the kohein gadol wore on his breastplate, it could be that Tarshish, the port, was a name given to any place where this precious stone could be acquired, similar to the diamond exchanges in New York, Antwerp or Ramat Gan.

Another possibility, which I suggested above, is that the word Tarshish, based on the root רשש, came to mean any power that impoverishes and dispossesses those that oppose it, or that the place name was borrowed to refer to another maritime superpower that vanquished and subjugated its enemies and established control of its trade routes. Certainly, there were sea powers along the Indian Ocean route, between Shelomoh and Hiram’s Levant and the far distant Spice Islands, that met this description. Thus, either of our approaches explains why the name Tarshish applied to two trade powers, one in the days of Yonah in the Mediterranean Basin, and the other in the days of Shelomoh. Since Shelomoh was earlier, it could be that the original Tarshish was off the Indian Ocean and Carthage’s name was borrowed from the original Tarshish. And, of course, none of these approaches is mutually exclusive: One Tarshish may have been named for its power, another for its valuable stone or precious metals trade, and a third borrowed its name from the original source.

Red, White and Green

In Parshas Naso, the Torah requires the banishing of a metzora from the camp. Chazal understand this to mean that he is not permitted to be within any city that was walled from the time of Yehoshua (Keilim 1:7).

Question #1: Red

“I was told that some nega’im are red or pink. What color are they really, since pink is about the color of our usual Caucasian skin?”

Question #2: White

“I saw someone who had a discoloration on his arm that was white as snow. Is it possible that he could be a metzora, even though we do not yet have the Beis Hamikdash?”

Question #3: Green or Blue?

“Does the word yarok mean green, yellow or blue?”

Introduction:

Contrary to many Biblical translations, tzaraas is not leprosy. The symptoms described by the Torah do not fit Hansen’s disease, which is another term for the condition more commonly called leprosy (see Rav Hirsch’s Commentary, Vayikra 13:59). Tzaraas is a miraculous occurrence that strikes members of the Jewish people as a punishment, but more so, as a Divine admonition to improve our behavior. The root of the word nega means to be “touched” – in this instance, to be touched by Hashem and reminded of the need to improve and do teshuvah. It occurred when the Jewish people in Eretz Yisroel were on a high spiritual level. That it does not occur today is because we are not on the spiritual level to receive these kinds of direct messages from Hashem (Sefer Hachinuch, Mitzvah 169), just as we no longer experience prophecy or obvious miracles for the same reason. (However, see Tiferes Yisrael, Mar’ei Kohein introduction to Nega’im, #39). This may very well be the reason why only someone Jewish is susceptible to tzaraas, and cloth or houses are susceptible to tzaraas only when owned by someone Jewish.

All instances of tzaraas require that a kohein declare them tamei, and to become tahor afterwards also requires the declaration of a kohein. In other words, the symptoms do not make the person, cloth or house tamei — it is the declaration of the kohein that does.

Tzaraas blemishes must be a minimum size to be tamei, but I will not be focusing on these requirements, nor on others, such as that the entire blemish must be visible, the details of what lighting is used to view a nega, and how and when these nega’im are metamei everything in the same room as they are.

We should also note that there is no difference between a man and a woman regarding the laws of tzaraas: both can become tamei any time after they are born. For simplicity’s sake, I will refer to the person with nega symptoms in the masculine.

Difference between musgar and muchlat

To begin with, we need an overview of the basic rules of tzaraas. All types of tzaraas, whether they affect people, cloth or houses, are divided into two general categories: metzora musgar, literally a “closed” metzora, and metzora muchlat, literally, “decided” or “definite” metzora. In the case of a person, a metzora musgar can be tamei for up to two weeks (actually thirteen days, because the seventh day of the first week is also the first day of the second week), after which, if no new symptoms develop, the person immerses himself in a mikveh or spring and becomes completely tahor at the next nightfall. (All immersions germane to tzaraas may be either in a mikveh, which usually consists of rainwater, or in a spring. Throughout the article, I will refer to a mikveh, but in each of these instances, it could also be a spring.) However, someone with nega symptoms that are ruled tahor must remain vigilant that his nega not grow any larger in the future or develop any other tamei symptoms. Should this happen, he will become tamei as a metzora muchlat, which means that he could remain tamei forever, if his tamei symptoms do not go away.

It is a lo saaseh of the Torah for someone to remove the symptoms of a nega, even when he has already been ruled tahor (Tosefta, Nega’im 3:1; Rambam, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 10:1). The Torah forbids this in parshas Ki Seitzei, where it says Hishameir benega hatzaraas, “Be careful concerning a tzaraas affliction” (Devorim 24:8).

This lo saaseh is a bit unusual since it is not worded in the more common way of a lo saaseh with the words lo or al but, rather, with the word hishameir. The Gemara teaches that a lo saaseh can also be worded either with the word hishameir or the word pen, which means “lest” (Shabbos 132b; Eiruvin 96a; Makkos 13b).

In all instances of tzaraas, the tumah generated by a metzora musgar is the same as that of a metzora muchlat. Therefore, one could  describe  a musgar as someone who is temporarily tamei, and a muchlat as someone who remains tamei until the symptoms that made him tamei disappear. The procedure for becoming tahor after being muchlat are those described in the beginning of parshas Metzora and are far more expensive, more complicated and take longer to perform than for someone becoming tahor after being musgar.

Tzaraas on a person

At this point, we need to explain the basic categories of tzaraas. There are three types of tzaraas that can affect a person:

(1) Tzaraas on healthy skin

(2) Tzaraas on injured skin

(3) Tzaraas on the scalp or beard

In the case of tzaraas on healthy skin, a nega appears, meaning that someone finds on his skin a blemish that is of a color that is very white, at least as bright as the membrane of an egg. The Mishnah (Nega’im 1:1) explains that there are four shades of white that can make someone tamei as a metzora. In order of increasing intensity, they are:

–          White as the membrane of an egg

–          White as a whitewashed wall

–          White as the cleaned, bleached wool of a newborn lamb (Shavuos 6b)

–          White as fresh clean snow

By the way, there is an unusual shade of white, called bohak by the Torah, that is not a symptom of tumah. Simply explained, although it is a bright white, a blemish this shade is completely tahor, since it is duller than the color of the membrane of an egg, and certainly than the other nega’im colors (Vayikra 13:39).

Pinks

In a few places, the Torah refers to nega’im that are reddish in color (13:19, 24, 43). The halacha is that all nega’im on people that are temei’im if they are white are also te’mei’im if they are reddish or pinkish, and that there are four shades of red, or more accurately, pink, that are tamei, just as there are four shades of white, as I mentioned above. However, the commentaries dispute exactly which four shades are temei’im, with a wide difference of opinion among them, ranging from a very light pink, to shades that are much redder (Ravad to Sifra 13:19; Kesef Mishneh, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 1:4; Eliyahu Rabbah and Tiferes Yisroel, Nega’im 1:2; Aruch Hashulchan He’asid 80:6-7) .

To the kohein

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no requirement that there be a Beis Hamikdash for someone to become tamei with tzaraas. In point of fact, should a kohein be knowledgeable about the laws of tzaraas and declare someone with a proper nega shade to be tamei, the person would become tamei (She’eilas Yavetz #136). However, this last scenario would be highly unlikely, since ruling someone tamei for tzaraas requires that an individual have extensive training in all the details of the laws of tzaraas, including personal experience in identifying the differences among the four white shades mentioned above (Rambam, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 1:3).

Musgar

Any of the types of tzaraas, whether on a person, garment, or house, must be shown to a kohein, who rules on the status of the nega (Nega’im 3:1). If he rules that the color is tahor, the person is tahor, and no further steps are necessary. If the kohein rules that the nega is musgar, then in the case of a person, he is fully tamei for seven days, counting the day that the kohein ruled on it as the first day. Anything he touches becomes tamei, and, in addition, if he enters a room or building during this week, everything in the room capable of becoming tamei will become tamei. It will require being immersed in a mikveh and will become tahor the nightfall following.

On the seventh day, the metzora must go to the same kohein for him to rule on the nega again (Tosefta, Nega’im 1:12; Rambam, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 9:4; 11:6). If the kohein rules that the nega is muchlat, the metzora must go outside of the city (if it is a walled city) and live by himself until the symptoms that created the ruling that it is muchlat disappear.

A person can be tamei musgar for a total of two weeks, which is actually thirteen days, as I explained above. On the thirteenth day, the metzora shows the nega to the kohein. If no symptoms have appeared to make the nega tamei, the person becomes tahor, notwithstanding that he still has the nega symptoms (see below). He immerses in a mikveh and becomes completely tahor the nightfall after his immersion.

Muchlat

What makes a metzora muchlat?

There are three symptoms that can make a metzora muchlat:

(1) His tzaraas spreads.

(2) Two dark or other non-white hairs that are within the nega turn white.

(3) There is a healthy-looking area of skin with a certain minimal size inside of the white nega.

Obviously, the first time the kohein sees the nega, he can rule muchlat only because of either the second or third symptom; ruling a nega muchlat because it spread can be only for a person who has been seen previously by the kohein.

Injuries, scalps and beards

I mentioned above that there are two other types of nega’im that can affect a person, tzaraas on injured skin and tzaraas on the scalp or beard. Each of these categories has two subcategories.

Injured skin

The Torah mentions two types of nega’im on injured skin, one in which the injury was the result of a blow and the other in which it was the result of a burn or other heat. There is no difference in halacha between these two types of nega’im. Whether someone finds a nega on an injury received through a burn or on an injury received as a result of a blow, both have almost the same rules as regular nega’im on healthy skin, with two exceptions, both of them leniencies.

(1) A nega musgar on injured skin is tamei for only one week. If, on the seventh day, the nega has not changed, the kohein rules the nega to be tahor. The metzora then immerses himself in a mikveh and becomes tahor at the next nightfall.

(2) The second lenience is that healthy skin inside the nega is not a muchlat sign. In other words, a nega on injured skin that has healthy skin inside will either be musgar or tahor, depending on the size and shape of the nega.

Scalp and beard

There are three types of nega’im that can affect the scalp or beard areas. In two of these situations — karachas, baldness on the back of the head, and gabachas, baldness on the front and top of the head — the halacha is that once someone’s hair falls out to the extent that part of the scalp is completely bald, it is treated the same as other areas of the body germane to nega’im. In other words, when someone becomes bald, that area that once had hair and now does not has the same halacha for nega’im purposes as other parts of the body. There is one exception, again a leniency. In this instance, white hairs inside the nega are not symptoms of tumah.

The other type of nega on the scalp or beard areas is called nesek, which is described at length both in the Torah and the Mishnah. Unfortunately, nowhere in Tanach or Chazal is it clarified how this is halachically different from bald areas. As a result, the rishonim dispute exactly what is the difference (see Rambam, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 5:8-11, 8:1; Rash, Nega’im 10:10; Ramban, Vayikra 13:30). Since the halachic conclusion is unclear, I will not discuss this issue.

Nega’im on clothing and houses

In addition to tzaraas on a person, there can be tzaraas on cloth, thread, or leather, and also on houses. In this instance, the indication of tzaraas is not a white discoloration, but adamdom, which is deep red, or yerakrak (Vayikra 13:49; 14:37). The color yarok in Tanach and Chazal can mean blue, green, gold or yellow (Tosafos, Chullin 47b s.v. Ela; Sukkah 31b s.v. Hayarok; Niddah 19b s.v. Hayarok). In a Tosefta (Nega’im 1:3), we find a dispute between tana’im what color is yerakrak that renders a garment tamei:

According to Rabbi Elazar, it is a yellow shade — the color of wax, egg yolk, or a variety of yellow gourd (dependent on varying texts to the Tosefta). According to Sumchus, it is the color of the wing of a peacock or the leaf of a palm tree, both shades of deep green. The color is the indication that the nega is musgar. Nega’im on cloth and houses can never become muchlat the first time they are seen by a kohein.

Yarok

How can so many different shades of color — blue, green, gold or yellow – all be called by the same word yarok? One answer is that the Torah’s descriptions refer to the various shades of the refracted light spectrum that is visible to humans, which range from violet to red (see Rav Hirsch, Collected Writings, Volume III, page 127). Yarok would refer to the middle of the spectrum, “techeiles” to the violet and blue-violet part, which are the shorter waves of light, and adom to the red, or longer waves. (According to this approach, the gold color here probably means a yellowish gold, rather than reddish.)

Differences between cloth and people

Aside from the differences in the color of the nega, there are several other distinctions between the laws of nega’im germane to garments and those germane to people.

In all types of nega’im, a nega that appears without any muchlat signs is musgar for the first week, and then examined by the kohein on the seventh day. A nega on cloth that appears the same after a week has passed is removed from the cloth, and the area of the cloth that became torn when the nega was excised is sewn closed. A similar halacha is true in the case of a nega on a house – the nega area and the stones on which it appears are removed to a tamei place, the area is replaced with stone and mortar and becomes musgar for a second week.

This halacha is the exact opposite from a nega on a person, in which case it is prohibited min haTorah to excise the nega, and the person continues in the state of musgar for another six days.

A person whose nega remains the same for two weeks becomes tahor. However, a garment whose nega remains the same for two weeks has the status of tamei muchlat. Another critical difference is what is done to the person or item that becomes muchlat. As explained before, a person who becomes muchlat remains tamei until the symptoms of his nega change. A garment that becomes muchlat is burnt.

There are other halachos that apply to a nega on cloth that do not apply to nega’im on people. A person whose nega is musgar is not banished from the city – this halacha is reserved for a person whose nega is muchlat. However, cloth that is tamei tzaraas must be removed from the city – even when it is only musgar. A related strict ruling that applies to a cloth nega (and does not apply to nega’im on people) is that a cloth that has tzaraas must be removed from any city – whether or not the city is walled, whereas a person who is muchlat is banished from a walled city (Keilim 1:7), but is not required to leave an unwalled city (Tosefta Nega’im, 7:14; Rambam, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 13:15).

Nega’im on houses

In addition to the laws of tzaraas on people and on cloth, the Torah presents the laws of nega’im on the inside of a house. Tzaraas applies only to a house built from wood, clay and earth (Nega’im 12:2) and only to a house in Eretz Yisroel. The color of the nega is, as the law of nega’im on cloth, adamdom, bright red, or yerakrak, as explained above.

There are several unique features about the laws of nega’im on houses. One is obvious: whereas the person with a nega or the owner of cloth with a nega goes to the kohein to show him the nega, in the case of a nega on a house, the kohein comes to the house to see the nega. Whereas other nega’im are always ruled on outdoors, in sunlight, nega’im on a house are ruled as the light can be seen through the windows and open doors of the house.

A nega on a house can have the status of musgar for up to three weeks, something not possible with any other nega (Nega’im 3:8, see also 13:1).

According to many authorities, nega’im on houses can render tamei even items inside the house that can never otherwise become tamei (Rambam, Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 14:4; Rashi and Tosafos, Mo’eid Katan 8a s.v. Deha; Eliyahu Rabbah, Mishnah Acharonah and Tiferes Yisroel, Nega’im 12:5 in explanation of Rabbi Yehudah; however, cf. Bartenura who disagrees).

Conclusion

The Gemara mentions tzaraas as a punishment for many types of prohibited behavior, which all share a common thread that they are antisocial activities. In other words, they all violate both mitzvos bein adam lamakom and bein adam lachaveiro. To quote the Rambam, “Tzaraas is a generic term comprising many things that are not comparable to one another… These changes that the Torah collectively calls tzaraas are not within what normally happens in the world. They are miraculous things that happen to the Jews to warn them away from loshon hora. Someone who speaks loshon hora — the walls of his house change color. If he changes his actions, the house becomes tahor. If he persists in his evil actions, his house will be destroyed, and then the leather items in his house that he sits and lies upon change color. If he changes his actions, they become tahor. If he persists in his evil actions until they are burnt, then the clothes that he wears change color. If he changes his actions, they become tahor. If he persists in his evil actions, until they are burnt, then his skin changes color, and he himself becomes a metzora. Therefore, someone who wants to develop himself spiritually should distance himself from these types of people, not to be influenced by their foolishness” (Hilchos Tumas Tzaraas 16:10).

Unfortunately, we no longer have these Divine reminders to keep us on the straight and narrow. Instead, we must try to inspire ourselves to grow in these areas.

Eruv Tavshilin

Since Yom Tov begins on Friday, a rare occurrence, we must prepare an eruv tavshilin, whether we live in Eretz Yisrael or in Chutz La’Aretz.

Question #1: Where?

“Is it true that eruv tavshilin is more common in chutz la’aretz than in Eretz Yisroel?”

Question #2: What?

“In what way is the halacha of eruv tavshilin different on Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach from other Yomim Tovim?”

Question #3: Why?

“What is the reason that many people use a hard-boiled egg for eruv tavshilin?”

Foreword

With Shavuos beginning on Thursday evening, the laws of eruv tavshilin are germane both to those living in Eretz Yisroel and to those living in chutz la’aretz. In order to reply accurately to the above inquiries, we must first examine several aspects of this mitzvah that Chazal implemented – particularly, the whys, hows, and whats of eruv tavshilin. Because of space considerations, this article will not be able to address all the issues of eruv tavshilin, but will answer the opening questions that were posed. However, there are other articles on the topic, as well as on the laws of Yom Tov, that may be read on RabbiKaganoff.com.

First, the basics: When Yom Tov falls on Friday, an eruv tavshilin must be made on erev Yom Tov to permit cooking and other preparations on Yom Tov for Shabbos. As it turns out, making an eruv tavshilin is much more common in chutz la’aretz than it is in Eretz Yisroel. Since, in our calendar devised by Hillel Hanasi, the beginning of Sukkos, Pesach and Shmini Atzeres never falls on Friday, the only time there is a need for an eruv tavshilin in Eretz Yisroel is when Shavuos or the seventh day of Pesach falls on Friday, or when Rosh Hashanah falls on Thursday. On the other hand, in chutz la’aretz, in additional to these instances, often the two days of Yom Tov fall on Thursday and Friday.

Introduction

When discussing the laws of Yom Tov, the Torah teaches kol melacha lo yei’aseh bahem, ach asher yei’acheil lechol nefesh hu levado yei’aseh lachem,“No work should be performed on these days; however, that which is eaten by everyone (kol nefesh), only that may be prepared for yourselves” (Shemos 12:16). We see from the posuk that, although most melachos are forbidden on Yom Tov, cooking and most other food preparations are permitted. However, cooking is permitted on Yom Tov only when it is for consumption on that day. It is forbidden to cook on Yom Tov for the day after, and at times this is prohibited min haTorah. There is, however, one exception – when Yom Tov falls on Friday and an eruv tavshilin is made, it is permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

To quote the Mishnah (Beitzah 15b), “When Yom Tov falls on erev Shabbos, it is prohibited to begin cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos. However, it is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, and, if there are leftovers, plan them to be for Shabbos. Furthermore (there is a way in which it is permitted to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos), by preparing a cooked food from before Yom Tov which he leaves for Shabbos. According to Beis Shamai, this must be two cooked items, and, according to Beis Hillel, one cooked item suffices.” (As we are aware, we also set aside a baked item for the eruv tavshilin, but this is not essential.)

Prior to quoting the dispute between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel, the Mishnah has expressed three distinct concepts:

No cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos

1. It is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos (without making the eruv tavshilin).

Plan-overs

2. It is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, planning to have leftovers for Shabbos.

Eruv tavshilin

3. Making an eruv tavshilin permits cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Each of these concepts requires clarification:

1. No cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos

It is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Let me explain a question that is implicit here. If it is prohibited to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, why does an eruv tavshilin permit it? Or, in other terms, there are three types of eruv that Chazal instituted, eruv techumim, eruv chatzeiros and eruv tavshilin. All three of these mitzvos have the status of a takanas chachamim, which means that they were instituted by Chazal to permit something that is otherwise prohibited because of a rabbinic injunction. An eruv techumim permits walking on Shabbos and Yom Tov beyond the techum Shabbos, the distance outside the city or other “Shabbos residence;” an eruv chatzeiros permits carrying on Shabbos from one individual’s jurisdiction to that of another. Both of these prohibitions permitted by their respective eruvin are rabbinic injunctions. An eruv, which is a rabbinic introduction, cannot permit something that is prohibited min haTorah, as the Gemara asks, “Can an eruv tavshilin permit a Torah prohibition” (Pesachim 45b)?

If cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is permitted min haTorah, and it is prohibited only because of a rabbinic injunction, we can understand how Chazal could create a rabbinic innovation called eruv tavshilin and thereby permit this cooking. To paraphrase this expression of the Gemara, since Chazal created the prohibition, they can also reverse it (ibid.). However, if cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is prohibited min haTorah, how do Chazal have the authority to permit that which the Torah forbade?

Two differing approaches

How we answer this conundrum is dependent on a debate between two amora’im, Rabbah and Rav Chisda (Pesachim 46b), which has major ramifications specifically for this coming Yom Tov, when Shavuos falls on Friday.

Rav Chisda contends that, min haTorah, it is always permitted to cook on a Friday Yom Tov for Shabbos. This is called tzorchei Shabbos na’asin beYom Tov, literally, “Shabbos needs may be performed on Yom Tov.” Since Shabbos and Yom Tov both have kedusha, and are both sometimes called “Shabbos” by the Torah, cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos is permitted min haTorah, just as cooking on Yom Tov is permitted for the same day (Rashi ad loc.). The prohibition not to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos is a rabbinic injunction; Chazal prohibited this in order to make sure that people do not cook on Yom Tov for a weekday, or on the first day of Yom Tov for the second, both of which might be prohibited min haTorah. Making an eruv tavshilin permits cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos, since a person thereby realizes that, without an eruv tavshilin, he cannot cook on Yom Tov even for Shabbos — therefore, he understands that he certainly cannot cook on Yom Tov for any other day.

The other position — ho’il

Rabbah contends that it is often prohibited min haTorah to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos. In other words, he maintains that tzorchei Shabbos einam na’asin beYom Tov – notwithstanding that Yom Tov is sometimes called Shabbos, it is still prohibited min haTorah to cook on Yom Tov for any other day, including Shabbos!

If that is true, how can an eruv tavshilin, which is a rabbinic solution, permit that which is prohibited min haTorah?

The answer is a halachic concept called ho’il, which permits cooking on Yom Tov min haTorah whenever you might have a need for extra cooked food on Yom Tov itself, even when you are not expecting to need the extra food and it is unlikely that such a situation will arise. For example, after finishing the Yom Tov day seudah, min haTorah it is permitted to cook another meal, provided it will be ready to eat before the Yom Tov day is over. This is because unexpected guests may arrive at your door, and you now have a meal ready to serve them. The idea that perhaps something will happen is expressed as the word ho’il; this word is now used as a brief way of referring to a complicated legal concept.

Therefore, whenever it is possible that guests may yet arrive on Yom Tov, it is permitted to cook for them min haTorah. Although miderabbanan it is not permitted to rely on ho’il to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos, since this is only a rabbinic injunction, eruv tavshilin can permit the cooking.

However, this heter applies only as long as the meal will be ready to be eaten while it is still Yom Tov. There is no heter to begin cooking a meal on Yom Tov that will not be ready until Yom Tov is over g . In other words, according to Rabbah, when ho’il does not apply, it is prohibited min haTorah to cook. Under these circumstances, an eruv tavshilin will not permit someone to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Thus, there is a halachic difference between Rabbah and Rav Chisda that affects us! According to Rabbah, it is not permitted to put a cholent on the fire on Friday that will not be ready to eat until sometime on Shabbos. Usually, it is perfectly fine to cook food on Friday that will be left on a properly covered fire when Shabbos starts and not ready to eat until the Friday night seudah. However, this Yom Tov it is not permitted to do this, according to Rabbah. Since this food will not be ready to eat on Yom Tov, the law of ho’il does not apply. Since the rule of ho’il does not apply, there is no heter to cook the cholent on Yom Tov for Shabbos, even if one makes an eruv tavshilin! Thus, the menu for Shabbos may have to depend on what one is planning to cook, or, more accurately, on whether it will be cooked in a way that it can be eaten on Yom Tov.

How do we rule?

The Mishnah Berurah, in Biur Halacha (527:1), notes that it is unclear whether we rule according to Rabbah or according to Rav Chisda. He concludes, therefore, that it is preferred to be machmir and have the food cooked for Shabbos in a way that ho’il applies, particularly when we are dealing with a potential question of a Torah law, such as when the first day of Yom Tov falls on Friday, as it does on Shavuos. This means that all food cooked for Shabbos should be edible before Shabbos arrives. The Biur Halacha rules that, under extenuating circumstances, it is permitted to rely on the rishonim who rule according to Rav Chisda’s opinion, but it is preferable lechatchilah to have the food for Shabbos cooked in a way that it will be already edible on Friday.

When the the first day of Yom Tov falls on Thursday, and, therefore, Friday Yom Tov is miderabbanan, there is more latitude to be lenient.

At this point, we can answer the second of our opening questions: “In what way is the halacha of eruv tavshilin different on Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach from other Yomim Tovim?”

In the calendar we currently use, the first day of Shavuos and Shevi’i shel Pesach never fall on Thursday, although they both often fall on Friday. When this happens, Friday is Yom Tov min haTorah, and it is important to plan the menu such that the meals cooked on Friday for Shabbos will be ready to eat when there is still time to eat them on Yom Tov.

Plan-overs

At this point, we will examine the second point that we derived from the Mishnah, which stated, “It is permitted to cook for Yom Tov, and, if there are leftovers, plan them to be for Shabbos.” In other words, even without having made an eruv tavshilin, there is a way to cook more than you need on Yom Tov in order to have plenty of leftovers, or, shall we call them, “plan-overs.” One may cook amply for the Yom Tov meal, knowing that there will certainly be leftovers that can be served on Shabbos. As a matter of fact, if one follows the halacha correctly here, it is even permitted to cook on the first day of Yom Tov planning to have enough leftover to serve on the second day, or even on a weekday. This is provided that each dish is, or could be, served at a Yom Tov meal on the day that it was prepared.

This plan-over preparation is called marbeh beshiurim, literally, “increasing the quantities,”which means that, while preparing food on Yom Tov, it is permitted to include a greater quantity while cooking, provided no additional melacha act is performed. For example, if you need to heat a small amount of water for a cup of tea, you may place a large pot of water on the fire, since only one act of heating water — placing a pot on the fire — is being performed.

However, it is prohibited if an additional melacha action is performed. For example, if the pot is already on the fire, you may not add extra water to it, since this involves a new melacha action.

Adding more

Here are other examples. You are making a cholent or cooking soup — you may add greater quantities of meat, beans or other ingredients than you will need for your Yom Tov meal into the pot before it is placed on the stove, because you place the entire pot onto the fire at one time, or turn up the fire only once, regardless as to how much is thereby being cooked.You may fill a pot with meat on the first day of Yom Tov, even though you need only one piece for the first day.

However, it is prohibited to prepare individual units of a food item, knowing that you are preparing more than can possibly be eaten on Yom Tov. For this reason, you may not fry more schnitzel or similar items than you will possibly need for a Yom Tov meal, since these involve separate melacha actions. Similarly, it is forbidden to bake more than what you will possibly need for the day (Beitzah 17a). Adding water or meat before putting the pot on the fire simply increases the quantity cooked, but does not increase the number of melacha acts, whereas shaping each loaf or roll is done separately, thus increasing the number of acts performed.

Why is this permitted?

Why is it permitted to cook extra on Yom Tov by use of marbeh beshiurim? We would think that cooking extra on Yom Tov is forbidden, just as in a situation of pikuach nefesh, where it is forbidden to cook more than what is necessary for the needs of the ill person. Why, then, is it permitted to cook extra on Yom Tov, as long as no extra melacha actions are performed?

The Ran (Beitzah 9b in Rif pages, s.v. Umiha) explains that there is a qualitative difference between the performance of melacha actions on Shabbos (or Yom Tov) to save someone’s life, and cooking on Yom Tov. Although saving lives is a huge mitzvah and supersedes Shabbos, the act performed is still an act of melacha. On the other hand, prohibited activities on Yom Tov are defined as melachos that are not food preparatory. Preparing food on Yom Tov involves no melacha activity whatsoever, and is as permitted on Yom Tov as it is to set the table on Shabbos. Since no melacha activity is performed, there is nothing wrong with adding more to cook while the Yom Tov meal is prepared, provided that no additional melacha action is done.

Hard-boiled eruv?

At this point, let us examine the third of our opening questions: “Why do many people use a hard-boiled egg for eruv tavshilin?”

It is permitted to continue cooking on Yom Tov for Shabbos only as long as the eruv tavshilin, or at least a kezayis of the cooked part of the eruv tavshilin, still exists. In the days before refrigeration, someone who prepared meat or a different food on Wednesday or Thursday for eating on Shabbos was faced with a practical problem. Once you cook food, it begins to spoil very quickly, if it is not refrigerated. Therefore, notes the Aruch Hashulchan, it was not uncommon that the eruv tavshilin was no longer edible when people were cooking on Wednesday for Shabbos, and an inedible eruv tavshilin no longer permits you to cook on Yom Tov for Shabbos.

Using a hard-boiled egg for the eruv tavshilin resolved this problem, since an egg cooked before Yom Tov and kept without refrigeration will still be edible on Shabbos.

However, in today’s world, when you can place the cooked part of your eruv tavshilin in the refrigerator and it will last until Shabbos, it is preferred to use as eruv tavshilin a cooked delicacy that you intend to serve at the Shabbos meal. For this reason, I for the eruv tavshilin the gefilte fish that will be served on Shabbos.

Conclusion

The Torah refers to the Yomim Tovim as mo’ed. Just as the word ohel mo’ed refers to the tent in the desert which served as a meeting place between Hashemand the Jewish people, so, too, a mo’ed is a meeting time between Hashemand the Jewish people (Hirsch, Vayikra 23:3 and Horeb). Unlike Shabbos,when we refrain from all melacha activity, on Yom Tov the Torah permits melacha activity that enhances the celebration of the Yom Tov as a mo’ed. Permitting us to cook delicious, fresh meals allows an even greater celebration of this unique meeting time with Hashem.

Hybrid or Kil’ayim?

Parshas Kedoshim contains one of the two places in the Torah where the mitzvos of kil’ayim are taught.

Question #1: Kil’ei beheimah

May one attempt to crossbreed a mule with a stallion?

Question #2: Kil’ei zera’im

May I plant the vegetables in my garden close together?

Question #3: Kil’ei hakerem

Is there any way that I can plant vegetables near my vineyard?

Question #4: Harkavas ilan

Must I be careful before I purchase a fruit tree?

Many people assume that the halachic definition of the mitzvah of kil’ayim is the crossbreeding of different species of plants or animals, but, as we will soon see, not all of the laws of kil’ayim have to do with what a farmer or a scientist would call crossbreeding or hybridization.

My desktop dictionary defines hybrid as “the offspring produced by breeding plants or animals of different varieties, species, or races.” Thousands of years ago, mankind crossbred horses and donkeys to create mules and hinnies. This hybrid, called a pered (female pirdah) is already mentioned many times in Tanach. As a pack animal, the mule — produced from a male donkey, called a “jack” and a mare (female horse) — has many advantages over either of its parents. It is usually as strong as a horse, sturdy, sure-footed, and, notwithstanding its reputation for being “stubborn as a mule,” is more reliable for hauling than draft horses. (A hinney, which has less commercial value, is produced from a stallion (male horse) and a female donkey, called a “jenny.” The word “hinney” comes from its parents – a horse and a jenny.)

Other crossbred animals

Artificial insemination has been used to crossbreed camels and llamas with the goal of producing a larger quantity of quality llama wool. Mankind has created such interesting creatures as ligers, crossbreeds of male lions and tigresses, tiglons (sometimes called tigons) from male tigers and lionesses, leopons (male leopards and lionesses), wholpins (whales and dolphins) and geeps (goats and sheep). Most of these have resulted in limited, if any, commercial value, although it was thought by some that they might.

Crossbreeding animal species is one of the prohibitions of the Torah when it declares behemtecha lo sarbia kil’ayim (Vayikra 19:19). It is one of the unusual mitzvos that even a non-Jew is required to observe (Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 10:6).

The prohibition is only to create the crossbreed; one may use a mule or any other crossbred animal. However, not only is it prohibited to crossbreed a horse with a donkey, it is even forbidden to attempt to breed a mule or hinney with either a donkey or a horse (Mishnah, Kil’ayim 1:6). In fact, it is rare that such an attempt will produce offspring, although it is claimed anecdotally that this can happen upon occasion. Nevertheless, someone who attempts to crossbreed them violates a Torah prohibition.

Crossbreeding of plants

Crossbreeding of plants, or, as it is usually called, cross-fertilization or cross-pollination, is when one pollinates the flower of one species with pollen from a different species, to produce offspring with some characteristics of each. Many fruits have been developed this way, although I want to share that a nectarine is not a crossbreed of a peach and a plum, as often mistakenly thought. A nectarine is an ancient variety of peach (Prunus persica) that has a smooth skin. Botanists consider it to be the same species as peaches.

What is interesting is that, in the discussions about kil’ayim in the Torah, the Mishnah and the writings of Chazal, nowhere does it say that it is prohibited to cross-pollinate from one plant species to another. This does not mean to say that there is no prohibition of kil’ayim germane to trees or plants. Quite the contrary, there are three such prohibitions min haTorah. They are referred to as kil’ei zera’im, kil’ayim in plants; kil’ei hakerem, kil’ayim in vineyards; and kil’ayim in trees, usually referred to as harkavas ilan. But, as we will soon see, none of these three prohibitions has anything to do with crossbreeding.

Kil’ei zera’im

Kil’ei zera’im is planting two or more different species of grains, vegetables or other edible herbaceous plants in close proximity. Exactly what defines “close proximity” is a very complicated halachic topic, and depends on factors such as the shape and size of the vegetable patch, and what variety of produce one is planting. We should note that, from a botanical point of view, planting two species in close proximity will not cause hybridization because it does not affect the genetic makeup.

This mitzvah applies only in Eretz Yisroel. Thus, someone in chutz la’aretz may plant his backyard garden with a wide variety of vegetables without any halachic concern, whereas in Eretz Yisroel someone planting a garden patch must be very careful to keep the different species separate.

Kil’ayim in a vineyard, kil’ei hakerem

Kil’ei hakerem is the prohibition against planting grains or vegetables in, near, above or below a vineyard. Again, this forbidden planting will not affect the genetic makeup of any of the plants involved. It is also clear that this was not the concern in halacha as we see from many of the halachic details. Here is one example: Although it is prohibited to plant grains or vegetables near a vineyard, there is a way to permit it by separating the vegetable patch from the vineyard with a halachic wall between them. For example, if one places two poles and a wire across the top, a tzuras hapesach, between the vegetable patch and the vineyard, it is permitted to plant vegetables right next to the vineyard (Eruvin 11a). This is similar to what we do when we construct an eruv to permit carrying on Shabbos. It is quite clear that, botanically, the tzuras hapesach does not accomplish anything to prevent the mingling of the species. Yet, with the tzuras hapesach, it is permitted to plant the crop; without the tzuras hapesach, it is a Torah prohibition to do so! This certainly cannot be explained on a scientific basis.

Even one grapevine is problematic near a crop plant, so care must be taken even in the home garden. For example, a pot with herbs or a vegetable under a trellised grapevine could forbid the grapes and the produce of the pot!

Unlike other forms of kil’ayim, the produce of kil’ei hakerem is forbidden to use.

The prohibition of planting grains or vegetables in a vineyard applies in chutz la’aretz, but only miderabbanan (Kiddushin 39a).

Harkavas ilan – grafting trees

The laws of kil’ayim also prohibit grafting one species of tree or plant onto the wood stock, or lower trunk, of another species. Although a town dweller may feel that this is a rare occurrence, in fact, contemporary plant nurseries and tree farmers usually graft branches of a species that produces delicious fruit onto the hardier stock of a different species.

For example, most peach and nectarine trees are produced by grafting a peach or nectarine branch onto the stock of a hardier tree, such as an almond. Someone who performs this, either in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’aretz, violates a Torah prohibition whether he is Jewish or not (Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 10:6). Most authorities rule that one may not own, water or prune a kil’ayim tree, whether or not it is in Eretz Yisroel or in chutz la’aretz (Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 295:7 and Piskei Teshuvah).

However, many observant Jews purchased agricultural properties that contained kil’ayim trees and did not cut down those trees. Was there any justification for their actions? Numerous halachic responsa discuss what was apparently a widespread practice in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Whereas most poskim rule that these Jews violated the halacha, some authorities justify the practice of owning these trees, at least in chutz la’aretz (Shu’t Chasam Sofer, Yoreh Deah #288; Aruch Hashulchan, Yoreh Deah 295:17-18).

Because so many trees are grafted nowadays, someone who owns a fruit tree should have a horticultural expert check whether its stock is from the same species or not. Often, even a non-expert can detect if a tree was grafted onto a different species by simply scrutinizing the tree. If the bark somewhere near the bottom of the tree looks different from the upper part of the tree, this indicates that the upper part of the tree was grafted. Often one can see a line separating the grafted scion from the rootstock, or a difference in thickness between the top and bottom. Before purchasing a new tree at a nursery, examine the trunk carefully for signs of grafting.

The prohibition of planting vegetables and other edible crops together applies only in Eretz Yisroel, whereas grafting trees applies equally min hatorah in chutz la’aretz and in Eretz Yisroel.

Although planting and caring for a kil’ayim tree is forbidden, the fruit from such a tree is permitted. Thus, one may purchase fruit in a market without worrying about kil’ayim.

Esrogim

Although space does not allow us to discuss this fascinating topic, there is a huge amount of halachic literature discussing the very common instance of using an esrog from a tree that was grafted onto a non-esrog tree. Most authorities rule that this esrog may not be used to fulfill the mitzvah on Sukkos.

Conclusion

Rav Hirsch (Vayikra 19:19) explains that the root word ke’le means to keep or hold something back, and that the plural form kil’ayim is similar to yadayim or raglayim and means a pair. Therefore, the word kil’ayim means to pair together two items that should be kept apart. This is to teach us that although we are given the world to develop, we must follow the rules that Hashem established for us to do so.

A Place to Pray

At the beginning of parshas Vayeitzei, the Torah teaches that Yaakov reached “the place,” vayifga bamakom, and he stopped there, because the sun had already set (see Rashi). The Gemara explains the word vayifga to mean he prayed. As Rashi notes, the word bamakom means that he stopped at a specific place, yet the Torah does not identify which place. Chazal explain that he stopped at the place where the akeidah of his father had occurred, which is the place from which Adam Harishon was created and the location of the mizbei’ach of the Beis Hamikdash, toward which we daven three times daily.

To quote the Rambam: “The location of the mizbei’ach is very exact… this is the holy place where Yitzchak was bound… We have a tradition that the place where David and Shelomoh built the mizbei’ach is where Avraham had built the mizbei’ach upon which Yitzchak was offered, and is the same place where Noach built the mizbei’ach after he exited the ark. This is the same mizbei’ach upon which Kayin and Hevel offered, as did Adam Harishon, and it is the place from which he was created” (Hilchos Beis Habechirah 2:1-2).

The Gemara (Berachos 6b) asks: “What is our source that Avraham assigned a place for prayer?” The Gemara responds: “‘Avraham arose early in the morning and went to the place where he had stood before Hashem’ (Bereishis 19:27). The expression ‘where he had stood’ alludes to prayer, as it says, ‘Pinchas stood up and prayed’” (Tehillim 106:30).

We see that Yaakov stopped to pray because he was continuing the practice of his grandfather, Avraham. Thus, we can see the importance of where we pray and to associate our davening with the Beis Hamikdash.

Toward the Mikdash

The Gemara (Berachos 30a) teaches that someone davening outside Eretz Yisrael should face Eretz Yisrael, someone within Eretz Yisrael should face Yerushalayim, someone within Yerushalayim should face the Beis Hamikdash, and someone within the Beis Hamikdash should daven facing the Kodesh Hakadashim. It even specifies how one should face within the Kodesh Hakadashim. Someone who has this shaylah should not be reading my article for instructions, but should check the Gemara.

Window on Yerushalayim

The room where one is davening should have some windows or doors open that face Yerushalayim (Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 5:6; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:4). This halacha is derived from a verse in Daniel (6:11): “He had windows open, facing Yerushalayim, in the upper story of his house, and three times a day… he prayed to Hashem” (Berachos 31a, 34b).

Why windows?

Rashi explains that looking heavenward through the windows influences one to be increasingly humble.

This ruling prompts the following question of the Magen Avraham (90:4): Why should we daven in a house that has windows? One is supposed to daven looking downward, to avoid distraction. So, logically, would it not be better if a shul deliberately did not have windows? Yet, Daniel davened in a room with windows.

The Magen Avraham answers that the windows are there so that if one is having difficulty concentrating while praying, he can look heavenward for inspiration. Similarly, Rashi may mean that immediately prior to davening one should look heavenward, but that, in general, while davening one should not be looking around or upward.

The Machatzis Hashekel shares with us several other reasons why davening should be in a room with windows. Some explain that this is a practical consideration, for ventilation, since being physically comfortable facilitates having proper focus when davening. Others explain that there should be windows facing Yerushalayim, not to provide a view, but to remind us that our tefillos travel first to Yerushalayim and then to heaven.

It is interesting to note that the Kesef Mishneh quotes a responsum of the Rambam, wherein he explains that the requirement that there be windows applies when davening at home, but not in shul. When the Mishnah Berurah (90:8) quotes this halacha, he similarly explains that this law applies primarily to a house, although he also applies the law to a shul, which is the prevailing custom. The later authorities note that having windows in a shul is implied by the Zohar, and contend that the Shulchan Aruch, the author of the Kesef Mishneh himself, followed this approach (Pri Megadim, Eishel Avraham 90:4; Kaf Hachayim 90:19).

Twelve windows?

The Zohar states that it is proper that a shul have twelve windows. Upon quoting this, the Beis Yosef says that the reason is based on deep kabbalistic ideas. Thus, although we do not understand the reason for this ruling, we should try to follow it.  Therefore, when Rav Yosef Karo, the author of the Beis Yosef, subsequently wrote the Shulchan Aruch, he ruled that a shul should, preferably, have twelve windows (Orach Chayim 90:4). The Pri Megadim rules that it does not make any difference which direction the twelve windows face, as long as at least one faces Yerushalayim. This is based on the fact that Daniel’s prayer room had a window facing Yerushalayim.

Outdoors

The Gemara mentions that it is inappropriate to daven outdoors (Berachos 34b). Although Chazal imply that Yaakov davened outdoors, his situation was different, because he was traveling. A traveler may daven outdoors, particularly if there is no more appropriate place for him to pray. In addition, even if a person has a place indoors to daven, but it is a place where he might be disturbed, it is better that he pray outdoors. If he has two places where he can daven undisturbed, one under trees and the other not, it is preferable to daven in the place where there are trees overhead (Pri Megadim, Chayei Adam, Mishnah Berurah).

Tosafos cites an opinion that the concern is not to daven in a place where someone will be disturbed by travelers, but one may daven outdoors in a place where he will not be bothered. The Beis Yosef (Orach Chayim 90) mentions this Tosafos, but questions it, implying in Shulchan Aruch that should someone have two choices where to daven undisturbed, one indoors and one outdoors, it is preferred to daven indoors.

Un-elevated Davening

The Gemara (Berachos 10b) rules that one should not daven from an elevated place. Quite the contrary, it is proper to pray from a low place, as the pasuk states, “from the depths I call to You, Hashem” (Tehillim 130:1).

Set place — Makom kavua

A person should daven regularly in the same place, as the Gemara states: Whoever establishes a place for his prayer, the G-d of Avraham will assist him. Furthermore, upon his passing, they will say about him that he was exceedingly humble and righteous and a disciple of Avraham Avinu (Berachos 6b).This passage of Gemara is subsequently quoted verbatim by the Rif and the Rosh, and its conclusion is quoted by the halachic authorities (Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 5:6).

What does the Gemara mean when it says one should pray in an “established place”? This is the subject of a dispute among the rishonim; I will quote three approaches:

Daven in shul

(1) Rabbeinu Yonah explains that it means to pray somewhere set aside for prayer, such as a shul. When someone cannot daven in shul and must pray at home, he should have a set place where he can pray undisturbed (see Magen Avraham 90:33). Rabbeinu Yonah rules explicitly that an established place does not mean a specific place in a shul — the entire shul is established for prayer. In his opinion, there is no requirement to have a specific seat in shul where one always davens.

Furthermore, according to Rabbeinu Yonah, it does not seem to make any difference which shul one attends, since one is, in any instance, davening in a place that has been established for prayer. According to this approach, the special rewards that the Gemara promises to someone who establishes a place for his prayer are because he was always careful to daven in a shul.

Based on Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach, many rishonim note that someone who is unable to join the tzibur should still daven in a shul, rather than at home (Rabbeinu Manoach, Hilchos Tefillah 5:6, based on Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 8:1; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:9).

Set place in shul

(2) Other rishonim disagree with Rabbeinu Yonah’s approach. The Rosh contends that, even in a shul, one should have a set place where he prays – the way we traditionally use the term makom kavua (Rosh, Berachos 1:7; Hagahos Maimaniyos, Hilchos Tefillah 5:10; Tur Orach Chaim #90). The poskim note that it need not be the exact same seat or location. Rather, anywhere within four amos (approximately seven feet) is considered to be the same place (Mishnah Berurah 90:60). If a guest is sitting in your seat, it is improper to ask him to sit elsewhere, since any nearby seat fulfills makom kavua.

For the occasion when someone must daven at home, he should have a set place where he can daven undisturbed (Magen Avraham 90:33). A woman should also have a set place in the house, out of the way of household traffic, where she davens undisturbed.

Daven in the same shul

(3) A third approach is advanced by Rabbeinu Manoach, who explains that establishing a place in which to daven means that someone should not daven randomly in different shullen, but should always daven in the same shul.

If we combine these three approaches, to guarantee the reward that the G-d of Avraham will assist him and that upon his passing, they will say about him that he was exceedingly humble and exceedingly righteous and a disciple of Avraham Avinu, a person should be careful to daven in the same place, in the same shul, whenever he can, and, certainly, on a regular basis.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 90:19) concludes that one should always have a set place to daven, whether at home or in shul. He does not mention davening in a specific shul, implying that he is following the view of the Rosh, the second of the three opinions that I quoted. This fits the Shulchan Aruch’s general halachic opinion of ruling according to one of the three, main accepted poskim of Klal Yisrael: the Rif, the Rambam and the Rosh.

Notwithstanding this halachic ruling, the authorities conclude that it is permitted to change your place (either the beis haknesses, or the place therein) when there is reason to do so (see Tur Orach Chaim 90; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:19). The Pri Megadim (Eishel Avraham 90:33) mentions that, in places that have two separate structures for the tefillos, one for winter and another for summer, changing from one to the other does not run counter to this halacha.

Rav Shelomoh Zalman Auerbach ruled that one may daven each of the three daily tefillos in different shullen, as well as the weekday prayers in one shul and the Shabbos tefillos in another (Halichos Shelomoh, Tefillah, Devar Halacha 5:2). It is unclear whether Rav Shlomoh Zalman understood that this approach accommodates Rabbeinu Manoach’s understanding of the Gemara, or that the Shulchan Aruch and later authorities do not follow Rabbeinu Manoach’s ruling.

Avoid idols

Another very important consideration is a ruling of the Avnei Neizer (Orach Chaim #32), that it is forbidden to daven in a room that is underneath the residence of a non-Jew, out of concern that the non-Jew has an idol or icon in his home, an assumption he makes in his time and place, 19th century Russia. In today’s world, this may still apply, depending on the faith of the upstairs neighbor.

Choice of Shullen

There is discussion in the Gemara and poskim concerning what is the preferred shul that one should choose to daven in. Of course, we are assuming that all the choices are conducive to davening with proper focus.

Closer or farther?

The Gemara (Bava Metzi’a 107a) quotes a dispute between Rav and Rabbi Yochanan, whether it is preferable to attend a shul that is closer, so as to regularly be among the first ten in shul (Toras Chaim, ad loc.), or a more distant shul, to receive reward for each step getting there. The poskim conclude that it is preferable to go to the shul that is farther away and receive the extra reward for every step (Magen Avraham 90:22; Graz 90:12). As we know, most people choose to daven at the most convenient, nearest shul. We should rethink this practice.

Larger or smaller?

Another consideration in choosing shullen is which one has the larger regular attendance. This is based on the concept of “berov am, hadras melech” – “a multitude of people is the King’s glory” (Mishlei 14:28).

Shul or Beis Hamedrash

The Gemara (Berachos 8a) asks: “What is the meaning of that which is written: ‘Hashem loves the gates of Zion more than all the sanctuaries of Yaakov’ (Tehillim 87:2)? Hashem loves the gathering places in which halacha is determined. This accords with what Rav Chiya bar Ami reported, quoting Ulla: Since the day that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed, Hakadosh boruch Hu has nothing in His world but the four amos of halacha.” The Gemara says that some amora’im were particular to pray “between the pillars where they learned,” referring to the pillars upon which the study hall was supported (Rashi). The Gemara specified “between the pillars,” indicating that not only did they daven in the study hall, as opposed to the beis haknesses, but they davened in the exact location where they studied (Ma’adanei Yom Tov, Berachos 1:7:70).

We see from this that there is preference to daven in a beis hamedrash where Torah is studied, as opposed to a beis haknesses used solely for davening (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 90:18).

What is the best choice for a makom kavua? The best option is for a person to daven in a beis hamedrash, particularly the one where he usually studies Torah, or in a beis haknesses, with a minyan. These choices are preferable to davening with a minyan elsewhere, such as at home, a simcha hall or an office building (Mishnah Berurah 90:27). However, none of these are greater priorities than the ability to concentrate on the davening. Therefore, should someone find that he cannot focus on his davening in shul but can do so in a minyan in someone’s home, it is preferable to daven with the home minyan (Mishnah Berurah 90:28).

If a person cannot attend shul to daven with a minyan, he should daven at home at the same time that they are davening in shul. This means that he should begin his shemoneh esrei at the same time that the congregation with whom he usually davens begins theirs. This is because the time that the tzibbur is davening is considered to be an “eis ratzon,” a time of Divine favor (Pri Chadash 90:9; Pri Megadim 90, Eishel Avraham #17).

Conclusion

Man was created by Hashem as the only creation that has free choice. Therefore, our serving Hashem and our davening is unique in the entire spectrum of creation. Three times a day, we merit an audience with the Creator of the Universe, a golden opportunity to praise, thank and beseech Hashem. As the Kuzari notes, every day should have three very high points — the three times that we daven. We should gain our strength and inspiration for the rest of the day from these three prayers.

Understanding how much concern Chazal placed on the relatively minor aspects of davening should make us even more aware of the fact that davening is our attempt at building a relationship with Hashem. How much preparation should this entail? Is it proper to merely jump into the davening without any forethought? Through tefillah we save lives, bring people closer to Hashem, and overturn harsh decrees. Certainly, one should do whatever one can to make sure to pay attention to the meaning of the words of one’s tefillah. One of the necessary preparations for tefillah is choosing where to daven. This sets the tone and contributes towards a successful prayer session. Let us hope that Hashem accepts our tefillos, together with those of all Klal Yisrael!

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